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Constitutional FAQ Answer #89

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Q89. "If a President has civil litigation brought against him during his term in office must this be handled while he is in office? Or, can it be deferred until his term expires?"

A. A civil case can be deferred, and before 1997, most people would likely have guessed that any civil case filed against the President would be deferred. However, a Supreme Court ruling against President Clinton in 1997 allowed a civil case against him to proceed. The reasoning was that since the case against him concerned acts committed prior to his taking office, that the Presidency did not lend him a shield against such litigation. The decision would seem to leave in place the notion that a President cannot be sued for actions taken as President, protecting Presidents from frivolous lawsuits designed to tie up an administration's conduct of national business.

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