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Supreme Court Hears Case Regarding Presidential Immunity_ How Much Protection Can the Executive Have_.pdf (70.37 kB)

Supreme Court Hears Case Regarding Presidential Immunity: How Much Protection Can the Executive Have?

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posted on 2024-05-17, 14:35 authored by Chloe Dunaj

The Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on former President Donald Trump’s claims of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for misconduct that occurred during his time in office [1]. Trump claims under Article II of the Constitution, he has protection from criminal prosecution regarding fraudulent claims of winning the 2020 presidential election [1]. Trump had been indicted on four different criminal charges as voted upon by a grand jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights [2]. Trump pleaded not guilty to all four charges. He is currently in court against the State of New York on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records [3]. 


Trump and his legal team filed a writ of certiorari in February 2024, asking the Supreme Court to review the cases against him during his time in office. Trump’s legal team is citing Marbury v. Madison as a principal case in defining the legitimacy of presidential immunity [3]. The argument contends that Marbury upholds “a broad immunity principle” and that a President’s official acts cannot be examined by the courts. Michael Dreeben, in his opening argument on behalf of Special Counsel Jack Smith, stated the immunity sought by Trump “would immunize former presidents for criminal liability for bribery, treason, sedition, murder - and, here, conspiring to use fraud overturn the results of an election and perpetuate himself in power” [4]. As the legal battle unfolds, Trump's argument for presidential immunity faces scrutiny, with its implications extending beyond his current legal challenges.

The outcome of this case has immense implications that can shape the role of future U.S. presidents. Trump is facing multiple cases regarding his actions both prior to and during holding the executive office. The rule of law in this nation concurs that no government official is above the law. If Trump is granted presidential immunity, it is possible that he can be exonerated from the current pending cases against him. Trump is also the current forerunner for the 2024 presidential election and most likely will abuse the power granted to him by this decision. The Supreme Court does not agree that Trump has full immunity but Originalist justices are arguing he has some immunity [4]. The Constitution has outlined a separation of powers between the three branches of the U.S. government which allows the judiciary to oversee the conduct and constitutionality of the executive branch’s acts. Exonerating a former President from crimes committed during office would be a breach of the Constitutional principle of the rule of law. 

While the Supreme Court appears divided on the extent of presidential immunity, it is essential to remember the foundational principles of the U.S. Constitution, including the separation of powers and the judiciary's role in ensuring governmental accountability. Ultimately, the decision rendered in this case will shape the boundaries of executive authority and the balance of power within the American political system for generations to come.

[1] John Kruzel & Andrew Chung, US Supreme Court justices in Trump case lean toward some level of Immunity | Reuters Reuters (2024),  (last visited May 2, 2024). 

[2] Trump v. United States, Indictment, (U.S Dis. Court. D.C.), 2023. 

[3] District Attorney Bragg Announces 34-Count Felony Indictment of Former President Donald J. Trump, Manhattanda (2023),  (last visited May 2, 2024). 

[4] Transcript of Oral Argument, Trump v. United States, 68, No.23-939, 2024. 

[5] Reply Brief of Petitioner, Trump v. United States, No.23-939 (U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Cir.)

[6] Will Dunham, At US Supreme Court, Clashing Views presented on presidential immunity | reuters Reuters (2024), (last visited May 3, 2024).



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