Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, the President of the United States William Clinton (Defendant) was accused of sexually harassing the Plaintiff, Paula Jones (Plaintiff), while he was Governor of Arkansas. The Defendant sought to postpone the proceeding of a civil lawsuit until after he left office.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A sitting President does not enjoy temporary immunity from all civil suits until he has left office.
Issue. Does the President have immunity from all suits against him while he occupies the office?
Held. No, a sitting President is not immune from suit for unofficial acts. The separation of powers doctrine does not require federal courts to stay all private actions against the president until he leaves office. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) distinguishes this matter from a situation where a public official is sued based on some sort of official action taken. In the latter situation the public official is generally granted immunity. The Defendant’s Separation of Powers argument fails because there is no indication that the judiciary is being asked to perform any function that might in some way be described as executive, or that this decision will curtail the scope of official powers of the Executive Branch. Moreover, the Supreme Court observed that this decision would not result in a deluge of private litigation against sitting presidents.
It is this concern of encroachment and aggrandizement that has animated our separation-of-powers jurisprudence and aroused our vigilance against the hydraulic pressure inherent within each of the separate Branches to exceed the outer limits of its power.View Full Point of Law