atesUnited States v. Nixon, President of the United StatesThroughout American history, the fear that our leaders may sometimesthink themselves above the law has always been evident.
The fear is that powerbrings corruptness. To prevent this, however, the system of checks and balanceshas been installed into the Constitution. No one branch of government standsabove the law in this setup. This point was reasserted in the the Supreme Courtcase of 1974, United States v.
Nixon. This case involved the President of theUnited States, at that time Richard Nixon, and the people of the United States. The case was based on the infamous Watergate scandal in which Nixon was said tobe involved. The case came about when Nixon refused to deliver subpoenad tapesto the Special Prosecutor that could have possibly incriminated him. Nixonattempted to quash this subpoena by claiming executive privelege.
The SpecialProsecutor argued this claim successfully. The President then appealed thisruling from the District Court to the Court of Appeals. In the Appeals Court,the Special Prosecutor filed for a writ of certiorari which was petitioned bythe President. Both petitions were granted and handed to the Supreme Court. When the case reached the Supreme Court, the basic arguements were asfollows.
President Nixon’s attorneys argued that the District Court was out ofits jurisdiction when it issued the subpoena to Nixon, making the case void. They stated that the dispute between the President and the Special Prosecutorwas strictly executive, and by mediating them, the court broke the doctrine ofseperation of powers. They also argued with executive privilege, the right ofthe President to withold information from Congress. To this, the District Courtsaid that the judiciary, not the President, was the final arbiter of a claim ofexecutive privilege. The Court also argued that the Special Prosecutor wasvested power by the Attorney General who had the right under the constitution toconduct the criminal litigation of the United States government. In its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the DistrictCourt.
They ruled that President Nixon’s insubordinance was unjustified. Theyfelt that neither the claim of invalid jurisdiction nor that of executiveprivilege were applicable. The decision was unanimous. There was concurringopinion by Raoul Berger that stated that he affirmed the Court’s decision, buthe believed the decision cut too closely the right of executive privilege in thecase that the information is irrelevant and the President needs to keep hisprivacy. This case was positive proof to the American people that the justicesystem in our country is indeed working if even the President’s wrongdoings canbe rectified. It was a statement of equalness among all and set forth theprecedent that nobody in this country is above the law.History