Facts of the case
Paula Corbin Jones sued President Bill Clinton. She alleged that while she was an Arkansas state employee, she suffered several abhorrentsexual advances from then Arkansas Governor Clinton. Jones claimed that her continued rejection of Clinton’s advances ultimately resulted in punishment by her state supervisors. Following a District Court’s grant of Clinton’s request that all matters relating to the suit be suspended, pending a ruling on his prior request to have the suit dismissed on grounds of presidential immunity, Clinton sought to invoke his immunity to completely dismiss the Jones suit against him. While the District Judge denied Clinton’s immunity request, the judge ordered the stay of any trial in the matter until after Clinton’s Presidency. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal denial but reversed the trial deferment ruling since it would be a functional equivalentto an unlawful grant of temporary presidential immunity.
Why is the case important?
The Respondent, Paula Jones Corbin (Respondent), filed a complaint containing four counts against the Petitioner, President Clinton (Petitioner), alleging the Petitioner made unwanted sexual advances towards her when he was the Governor of Arkansas.
Whether the President can be involved in a lawsuit during his presidency for actions that occurred before the tenure of his presidency and that were not related to official duties of the presidency?
The President of the United States can be involved in a lawsuit during his tenure for actions not related to his official duties as President.
It was an abuse of discretion of the District Court to order a stay of this lawsuit until after the President’s tenure. The District Court’s decision to order a stay was premature and a lengthy and categorical stay takes no account whatsoever of the Respondent’s interest in bringing the suit to trial.
The Court ruled that the doctrine of separation of powers does not require federal courts to stay all private actions against the President of the United States until he leaves office. When defining the scope of an immunity for acts clearly taken within an official capacity, the Supreme Court has applied a functional approach. Thus, an official’s absolute immunity should extend only to acts in performance of particular functions of his office. Immunities are grounded in the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it.
- Advocates: Robert S. Bennett Argued the cause for the petitioner Gilbert K. Davis Argued the cause for the respondent Walter E. Dellinger, III On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner for the United States, as amicus curiae by special leave of the Court
- Petitioner: Clinton
- Respondent: Jones
- DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
- Location: Arkansas State Capitol
|Citation:||520 US 681 (1997)|
|Argued:||Jan 13, 1997|
|Decided:||May 27, 1997|