United States v. Nixon


This case occurred in the midst of the Nixon Watergate scandal.  The prosecutor assigned to the case had subpoenaed the President’s recordings of his office visits/conversations/phone conversations.  The attorney for the President argued that the tapes should not be subpoenaed because they were granted executive privilege.  Furthermore, the President’s attorney argued to the court that the issue was not a matter for the Supreme Court because it was a dispute within the executive branch; the Supreme Court can only properly hear cases where there is a dispute between branches.


Whether the President can quash a subpoena via executive privilege under any condition.


No, held.  Citizens have the right under Amendments 4 and 5 of the constitution to face their accusers and have fair and speedy trials, even when bringing claims against the President of the United States.  While the President is not any other citizen, the court must balance the executive privilege interest with the interest of the individual citizen under Amendments 4 and 5.  In so doing, the court should review the privileged material – the tapes in this case – in their private chambers and balance such interests.  In the instant case, interest claimed by the President was not sufficient to outweigh that of the individual citizen’s.  Therefore, the tapes were subpoenaed.

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