Trump v. Vance

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: July 9, 2020
  • Case #: 19-635
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. KAVANAUGH, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GORSUCH, J., joined. THOMAS, J., and ALITO, J., filed dissenting opinions.
  • Full Text Opinion

Neither the Supremacy Clause, nor Article II categorically preclude, or necessitate a heightened standard for, state criminal subpoenas issued to a sitting President.

In 2019, a subpoena duces tecum was served on the personal accounting firm Mazars USA, LLP, who handled President Trump’s financial and business records. The President, as an individual, sued Mazars and the district attorney with the goal of enjoining enforcement of the subpoena. The President argued Article II, as well as the Supremacy Clause, prevent a criminal subpoena to be issued to a sitting president. The district court held no injunctive relief was necessary and the Second Circuit generally agreed on different grounds. The Court held a state criminal subpoena could be issued to a sitting president and not hamper Article II duties nor would a heightened standard for a state grand jury be necessary. The Court reasoned that federal criminal subpoenas have never affected the President’s constitutionally mandated functions, and over 200 years of precedent show presidential official communications can be the concern of the judicial process. Additionally, the secrecy of a grand jury precludes a stigma, and harassment from criminal subpoenas will not occur because arbitrary expeditions are prohibited. Lastly, no heightened scrutiny is necessary because the President’s ordinary papers are treated just like any other individual, and effective law enforcement favors this access. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED AND REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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