Thursday, November 14, 2013

Richard Nixon v. A. Ernest Fitzgerald case brief

Richard Nixon v. A. Ernest Fitzgerald case brief summary
457 U.S. 731 (1982)

Petitioner, a former United States President, sought review of the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which denied petitioner's motion to dismiss respondent former federal government employee's cause of action for retaliatory discharge. Petitioner contended that he enjoyed absolute immunity from civil liability for actions taken while serving as President.

Respondent, a former government employee, filed a suit against petitioner, a former United States President, for retaliatory discharge. After petitioner's motion to dismiss based upon a claim of absolute immunity was denied, petitioner filed a motion for a writ of certiorari.


  • In reversing the lower court's decision, the Court noted that a grant of absolute immunity to the President would not leave the President with unfettered power. 
  • The Court stated that there were formal and informal checks on presidential action that did not apply with equal force to other executive officials. 
  • The Court observed that the President was subjected to constant scrutiny by the press. 
  • It noted that vigilant oversight by Congress would also serve to deter presidential abuses of office, as well as to make credible the threat of impeachment. 
  • The court determined that other incentives to avoid misconduct existed, including a desire to earn reelection, the need to maintain prestige as an element of presidential influence, and a President's traditional concern for his historical stature.

The Court reversed the judgment and remanded the cause for action consistent with the Court's opinion.

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