ISSUE BRIEF: The President’s Duty To Obey Court Judgments

President Trump is not above the law. If Trump were to disobey—or direct his subordinates to disobey—a court order, he would be at war with the Constitution’s text, history, and most basic values.

Summary

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.” The “judiciary would be reduced to an adjunct of the executive branch. Instead of the three-branch system of government created by the Constitution, we would have in effect a two-branch system, with the executive serving as both prosecutor and court of last resort.” In place of the rule of law, we would have chaos and instability. That is not the Constitution our Framers designed.

Once a court issues a final judgment, the President must comply with that judgment, even if he vehemently disagrees. He may criticize the Supreme Court—as many Presidents have—but he lacks the authority to “nullify” or “disregard judgments.” Otherwise, the President would be effectively above the law, and our nation would be thrust into a “constitutional crisis any time the Court rules against the government in litigation.” That would pervert our Constitution’s structure and values and would be a recipe for utter chaos.

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