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In response to the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 the state of Mississippi brought suit against the President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, claiming that the laws were un-constitutional. The opinion of the court was given by the Chief Justice, and ruled that an injunction against the president could not be made for duties performed by the president within his duties delineated in Article II of the Constitution. In the ruling the court explained the president’s role in this specific case was not ministerial as the state of Mississippi had argued but was rather an act based on his executive and political duties. Quoting Chief Justice Marshall the court explained that an attempt by the judicial branch to oversee such duties would be “an absurd and excessive extravagance.” The opinion further explains that even though the court in this case is not being asked to tell the executive what it must do but rather telling it what it cannot do, the court must not stray from the underlying principle. Thus, the ruling in this case is that the President of the United States cannot be sued to prevent the carrying out of his/her executive responsibilities.
The case of Nixon v. Fitzgerald was brought before the court as a suit against the president for allegedly getting rid of a Federal employee for political reasons and not structural reasons as he claimed. The employee, Ernest Fitzgerald, was a civilian management analyst for the U.
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If a case were to be brought before the Supreme Court today dealing with presidential immunity then the three cases previously mentioned would help to justify the decision. If the case involved immunity for a president based on he/she performing duties explained in Article II of the Constitution then he/she would be granted immunity based on the ruling in Mississippi v. Johnson, and Nixon v. Fitzgerald. However, the precedent from both of these cases and also Jones is that the immunity is based on the functions of the presidency and not the actual position itself, thus a president can still be sued for unlawful acts. Further, a president if acting illegally within his/her duties then an impeachment trial would have to be instituted by Congress. In Clinton v. Jones it was established that the position of President does not exclude the individual from civil suits. The cases mentioned have developed the law of the land involving Presidential immunity.