Rule of Law

RELEASE: Must the President Follow the Order of a Court? Conservative After Conservative Says ‘Yes’

President Trump cannot pick and choose which judicial orders to follow. In short, he is not above the law.

WASHINGTON—President Trump’s claim that he cannot obstruct justice because he is the President is the most recent example of Trump’s disregard for the rule of law. As President, he has repeatedly argued that his actions—such as his refusal to obey the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses and his Muslim travel ban—cannot be reviewed by the courts. He has bitterly attacked judges who have disagreed with him, maligning them as “so-called judge[s].” Under the Constitution, however, the President does not have a veto over court decisions he dislikes. Today Constitutional Accountability Center is releasing a thorough analysis, which shows that the Constitution’s text, history and values require the President to obey court judgments.

This latest Issue Brief, The President’s Duty To Obey Court Judgments, makes the case that the role of the courts in our constitutional system is to check government overreach, including by the President. Virtually everyone—left, right, and center—agrees that the President cannot disobey the courts. With a thorough analysis intended to head off any potential attempt by this President or his defenders to argue to the contrary, CAC Civil Rights Director David Gans writes (quoting Federalist Society co-founder Steven G. Calabresi):

If President Trump directed his subordinates to disobey a court order, he would be at war with the Constitution’s text, history, and most basic values. A system of government in which the President held an effective veto over court judgments “would be not so much a system of constitutional government as it would be a system of rule by an elected Napoleonic strongman.”

Gans surveys the broad ideological consensus around the position that U.S. Presidents are duty bound to obey the orders of a court, emphasizing the views of one conservative legal scholar after another who have helped solidify this consensus from the right. After this comprehensive survey, Gans concludes:

Whether one looks at the Constitution’s text and history, Supreme Court doctrine, scholarly writings, or the acts of our Presidents, it is clear that the President must obey judicial judgments. He cannot pick and choose which judicial orders to follow. In short, he is not above the law.

Read the full Issue Brief here:


Now in our tenth year, Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit the new CAC website at