Law: Shielding the President

The Supreme Court upholds his immunity from suits

Public officials have traditionally enjoyed special status under the law.

Like all citizens, they are subject to the criminal laws, but if an official violated a citizen's rights, a judge's main recourse was to order a halt to the unlawful conduct. The official was generally immune from lawsuits in which the aggrieved citizen sought monetary compensation. Exposing officials to such civil actions, reasoned the Supreme Court in 1896, "would seriously cripple the proper and effective administration of public affairs." Over the years, small, scattered openings...

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