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St. Mary's Law Journal





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The Supreme Court theorized absolute immunity for the President must be found in the separation of powers doctrine. Because of the broad range and sensitive nature of the President's responsibilities, his constant visibility, and the judicial deference he has historically been accorded, the Court concluded in Nixon v. Fitzgerald that civil damages suits would unduly distract the President from his official duties. Furthermore, because the President's actions can affect innumerable people, the Court feared the scrutiny inherent in civil damages suits would be overly intrusive. Accordingly, the Court considered it too difficult to align a particular result with one of the President's innumerable decisions; therefore, the Court adopted the rule from Barr v. Matteo, that acts done within the “outer perimeter” of official capacity deserve immunity from civil damages. However, the notion that absolute immunity has placed the President above the law is a misconception for he still may be subject to impeachment, and to mandamus, injunctions, and subpoena duces tecum in criminal trials, as well as being amenable to civil suits when acting beyond the outer perimeter of his official capacity.

Recommended Citation

Laura H. Burney, Constitutional Law—Presidential Immunity—The President Is Absolutely Immune From Civil Damages Liability For Acts Done Within The “Outer Perimeter” Of His Official Capacity (Casenote), 14 St. Mary’s L.J. 1145 (1982).

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