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Presidential Immunity

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    The predicament of whether President’s, who are currently established during their term, embody absolute immunity from civil lawsuits was reintroduced by Paula Corbin Jones in 1994 against former President Bill Clinton. Paula Jones, a previous Arkansas state employee, professed that while she was working under the state she became victim to multiple despicable sexual advances by Clinton. She said that she refused on multiple occasions, but was punished for her rejections of the President. Jones then filed a lawsuit against the President who quickly filed a motion to dismiss on Presidential immunity grounds since he was now the President of the United States and tried to have the respondent not have the ability to re-file until after President Clinton’s term was over. The court declined the President’s immunity request but agreed to not have trial until the end of his presidential term. The court came to a unanimous decision that sided with Jones saying the President does not relish in immunity from a lawsuit by a civilian that contains behavior that is not related to official acts.

    Presidential immunity serves as a scapegoat to some but a necessity to others regarding the president and his duties as the leader; however, it leads to many questions regarding the correct way to use it and its surrounding downsides . Democracy is a system that this country fights for, lives by, and is cemented into the roots of our foundation. According to Stanford University, Democracy is a “political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections, the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life, protection of the human rights of all citizens, and a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens”. With this definition, Clinton used his power of being the President of the United States to try and sweep away the potential wrongdoings of his actions under the rug as if he was above the law that he enforces. Former president, Clinton, also serves as a citizen in the United States; therefore, should be subject to the laws and procedures that are enforced upon all other citizens.

    The judge ruled to dismiss the charges brought against Clinton by the plaintiff in exchange for the case to potentially be filed after the term of the president was over. The appeal was granted and “the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal denial but reversed the trial deferment ruling since it would be a ‘functional equivalent’ to an unlawful grant of temporary presidential immunity. This reversal depicts to the members of society that they are more than just a bundle of bodies who gave their power to a person who is above the law. Instead, this portrays that all citizens, government officials in particular, are held accountable to the laws that govern the entirety of this nation. It does not erode the power of the people, but empowers the esteem of the nation in their ability to realize that they too have capacity. This appeal makes America more of a Democracy during this time period because all are subject to the four key elements of a Democracy. With this opinion comes another question. Are we all equal? However, this differs from being more of a democracy.

    Being more of a democracy depends on the circumstances during that time period and how much closer certain decisions make us to these elements, but asking if we are all equal depends on the opinion of each person. Some would say during this time that we are because Clinton was punished for his actions that Jones accused him of; however, others would argue that we are not because Clinton’s punishment was miniscule for his actions as such a prominent figure. Clinton was given a five year suspension of his law license with a $25,000 fine, a fine of more than $90,000 for violating the federal court’s orders, and a $850,000 payment in the settlement with Paula Jones. The consequences to Clinton look as if they are small punishments for his actions. He was found lying in a federal court and his license was only revoked for a five year period without serious jail time.

    With the mindset that I have now, I think Clinton should have had his license taken away because he was breaking the law in which he is fully knowledgeable about. Normal civilians and prominent figures are not found to be equal in the real world, but equal on paper. On paper, Clinton and other civilians pay their dues differently, but they pay for their wrongdoings regardless; however, in reality the resources that Clinton has compared to others makes us unequal in the ways we each pay. Presidential immunity hasn’t came as an excuse for protection to only Clinton. Current President, Donald Trump, has tried to utilize presidential immunity for a lawsuit brought against him by Summer Zervos over defamation due to her speaking out about President Trump groping her in 2007. His legal team has repeatedly tried to dismiss the case under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. The use of the clause secures that his official duties not be interrupted by the defense. There is a constant issue about whether the clause places the president above the law. In this particular lawsuit the prosecution claims that he is being placed above the law in this situation, while the defense believes that if President Trump is arrested, his presidential responsibilities and duties will be interfered with.

    It is a matter of debate and personal opinion regarding what is the correct decision in this situation. Trump had at least 75 open private lawsuits against him when assuming office. Although that is a substantial amount for one person and holds a great deal of importance to those involved, it should not be employed at this moment. In my opinion, the civil suits against Trump can be deferred until the end of his presidential term. The civil suit does not put anyone in danger directly, so the lawsuit could wait. The country has its many other demands at the moment regarding other countries and the issues within its own nation. If was a crisis and put the country in harm’s way then the Court would have made a decision quickly or it would have been filed as a criminal lawsuit. The needs of the country outweigh the needs of one plaintiff in regards to the safety and well being of the country. I believe that President Trump has a lot of problems that he brings amongst himself, but the country chose him as their representative and therefore his controversial decisions for the nation are superior.

    Therefore, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution should be authorized in this situation. President Trump should handle his suits against his action at a further date when he is no longer the President of the United States. Presidential immunity is a double-edged sword that can be utilized correctly or as an abuse of power. The idea of Presidential immunity is based upon decisions made by courts in previous cases and doesn’t have a distinct set of rules or restrictions. There needs to be clarification in what presidential immunity is and when it can be used to abolish the abuse of it. Presidential immunity should legally be defined as an exemption of being detained while being accused of a situation or civil lawsuit so that the responsibilities and duties of a president are not at risk. However, there should be restrictions to this privilege. If a president has used this excuse multiple times for the same situation, been accused multiple time with valid evidence, or has been caught lying or obstructing evidence, then they shall be seen as a normal citizen and go through the following stages based upon the conditions. For example, Bill Clinton was “formally charged with lying under oath and obstructing justice” and was not able to use the presidential immunity privilege he was given when he became president.

    However, he was acquitted of the charges and able to finish his term. He was able to finish his duties as president, but also impeached on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice. The decision of impeachment was a correct and valid decision. The United States lawmakers should provide a clause that describes presidential immunity’s limitations and function in order to prevent the abuse of this privilege. The concept of checks and balances in plain words is for each branch of government to have the ability to have some control over the other. Is there a more powerful branch that influences and rules more than the others? The executive branch has more power and influence compared to the legislative and judiciary branches. In particular, the executive branch, containing the president, has the ability to “either to sign legislation into law or to veto bills enacted by Congress, although Congress may override a veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses”.

    The president has the ability to control laws much easier than Congress does, even if Congress does not agree. This power that the president holds encomppasses the ability to benefit himself much easier than if he had more of a restricted power. Presidential immunity can be molded into the desires of the president to aid in his wants if presented as a clause he does not desire. The power of the president is much greater than anyone thinks and it is important to see the privilege of the president not be abused. Presidential immunity is a debate that may be argued over for years to come. It has been seen both ways depending on the opinion and circumstances. Presidential immunity needs to be defined and made part of the law in order to be used correctly and to restrict any abuse. Citizen equality, democracy, presidential immunity cases, and checks and balances are examples of why presidential immunity is a double-edged sword. Presidential immunity matters because with definition comes less abuse and a better understanding of the role it plays in our nation.

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    Presidential Immunity. (2022, Mar 12). Retrieved from

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