SCOTUS, unfathomable last bastion

Date: 11 July, 2024 - Blog

The Supreme Court of the United States is the omnipotent body of the judiciary. Its decisions are final. It confines itself to the most important cases and decides whether the laws of the United States or of the various States comply with the Constitution, of which it is the ultimate interpreter. Constitutional review is carried out a posteriori, after a law has been enacted. The Court has jurisdiction to accept appeals submitted to it. It meets in camera.

It is made up of 9 judges, all appointed by the Presidents in office. SCOTUS has a conservative ideological bias, as 6 of its members were appointed by the Republicans (3 by G. Bush, 3 by D. Trump) and 3 by the Democrats (2 by Obama, 1 by Biden). This became apparent as early as 1997, with the Clinton vs. Jones ruling, which established that a sitting President (Clinton) could be sued in civil court for acts committed before taking office and unrelated to it (Paula Jones case). Then in December 2000, in Bush vs. Gore, the Court ruled on the outcome of the presidential election through the Florida vote count.

5 of the 9 SCOTUS judges are conservatives

Including J. Roberts, Chief Justice, whose vote is decisive in the event of a tie

SCOTUS’s conservative ideological orientation

July 2024, Trump vs. United States

Among the highly politicised cases, the latest is particularly spectacular. SCOTUS has just ruled, after lengthy deliberations, on presidential immunity, particularly in relation to the assault on the Capitol. It has implicitly confirmed that the former President will be able to formally run for the post of future head of the White House at the ballot box next November. In short, according to this ruling, a President cannot be prosecuted for acts committed in the course of his duties. However, he could be prosecuted for his private acts. SCOTUS establishes a few vague criteria for distinguishing between the two situations.

In practice, it will take a few quarters for a stable doctrine on this subject to emerge. A priori, nothing could prevent a President in office from granting himself a pardon if necessary or ordering the Courts to cease proceedings against him. What’s more, a President could now, during his or her duties, take virtually any action without consequence, regardless of whether the action was taken under civil or criminal law! Some people fear that there will be a great deal of uncertainty. Particularly when government agencies use the time-honoured and accepted phrase: “The President has ordered it”. No one will be able to prove that he didn’t do it, given that issues of national security preclude access to internal communications.

In addition to the assault on the Capitol, in the strict sense of the term, Trump faces several other charges. For attempting to manipulate the 2020 presidential election. With the state of Georgia in particular. Some of his cronies, including R. Giuliani, have also been convicted. Experts believe that several of these accusations clearly fall within the private sphere.

On the merits, SCOTUS gave a measured ruling and demonstrated – relative – impartiality

In terms of form, it is supporting Trump by avoiding the appropriate trial before the elections

By refusing to make a more profound / decisive decision, SCOTUS is opening a number of loopholes

It significantly strengthens the scope of (absolute) immunity for future presidents

Investors need to be prepared for many legal imbroglios in the future, including of course those linked to D. Trump