72 F.3d 1354 (8th Cir. 1996), 95-1050, Jones v. Clinton
|Docket Nº:||95-1050, 95-1167.|
|Citation:||72 F.3d 1354|
|Party Name:||Paula Corbin JONES, Appellee-Cross-Appellant, v. William Jefferson CLINTON, Appellant-Cross-Appellee. Danny Ferguson, Defendant. United States of America; Akhil Reed Amar, Southmayd Professor of Law Yale Law School; Susan Low Bloch, Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School; Harold H. Bruff, Donald Phillip Rothschild Research Professor, George Washin|
|Case Date:||January 09, 1996|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit|
Submitted Sept. 14, 1995.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Robert Bennett, Fairfax, VA, argued, Carl S. Rauh, Alan Kriegel, Amy R. Sabrin and Stephen P. Vaughn, on brief, Washington, D.C., Kathlyn Graves and Stephen Engstrom, Little Rock, AR, on brief, for appellant.
Gilbert Davis, Fairfax, VA, argued, Joseph Cammarata and Daniel M. Traylor, Little Rock, AR, on brief, for appellee.
Before BOWMAN, ROSS, and BEAM, Circuit Judges.
BOWMAN, Circuit Judge.
We have before us in this appeal the novel question whether the person currently serving as President of the United States is entitled to immunity from civil liability for his unofficial acts, i.e., for acts committed by him in his personal capacity rather than in his capacity as President. William Jefferson Clinton, who here is sued personally, and not as President, appeals from the District Court's decision staying trial proceedings, for the duration of his presidency, on claims brought against him by Paula Corbin Jones. He argues that the court instead should have dismissed Mrs. Jones's suit without prejudice to the refiling of her suit when he no longer is President. Mr. Clinton also challenges the District Court's decision to allow discovery to proceed in the case during the stay of the trial. Mrs. Jones cross-appeals, seeking to have the stays entered by the District Court lifted, so that she might proceed to trial on her claims. 1 We affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand to the District Court. 2
On May 6, 1994, Mrs. Jones filed suit in the District Court against Mr. Clinton and Danny Ferguson, an Arkansas State Trooper who was assigned to Mr. Clinton's security detail during his tenure as governor of Arkansas, for actions alleged to have occurred beginning with an incident in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hotel suite on May 8, 1991, when Mr. Clinton was governor and Mrs. Jones was a state employee. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (1988), Mrs. Jones alleges that Mr. Clinton, under color of state law, violated her constitutional rights to equal protection and due process by sexually harassing and assaulting her. She further alleges that Mr. Clinton and Trooper Ferguson conspired to violate those rights, a claim she brings under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985 (1988). Her complaint also includes two supplemental state law claims, one against Mr. Clinton for intentional infliction of emotional distress and the other against both Mr. Clinton and Trooper Ferguson for defamation.
Mr. Clinton, asserting a claim of immunity from civil suit, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice to its refiling when he is no longer President or, in the alternative, for a stay of the proceedings for so long as he is President. On December 28, 1994, the District Court, rejecting the application of absolute immunity, denied Mr. Clinton's motion to dismiss the complaint. The court did find, however, that for separation of powers reasons Mr. Clinton was entitled to a "temporary or limited immunity from trial," 3 and thus granted his request to stay the trial for the duration of Mr. Clinton's service as President. Jones v. Clinton, 869 F.Supp. 690, 699 (E.D.Ark.1994). Concluding that the claims against Trooper Ferguson are factually and legally intertwined with the claims against Mr. Clinton, the court also stayed the trial against Trooper Ferguson for as long as Mr. Clinton is President, but permitted discovery on Mrs. Jones's claims against both Mr. Clinton and Trooper Ferguson to go forward. On appeal, Mr. Clinton seeks reversal of the District Court's rejection of his motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground of presidential immunity and asks us to order that court to dismiss Mrs. Jones's action in its entirety, without prejudice. In the alternative, he asks this Court to reverse the decision denying his motion to stay discovery. Mrs. Jones cross-appeals the District Court's decision to stay the trial of her claims against both Mr. Clinton and Trooper Ferguson. 4
Mr. Clinton argues that this suit should be dismissed solely because of his status as President. The immunity he seeks would protect him for as long as he is President, but would expire when his presidency has been completed. The question before us, then, is whether the President is entitled to immunity, for as long as he is President, from civil suits alleging actionable behavior by him in his private capacity rather than in
his official capacity as President. We hold that he is not.
We start with the truism that Article II of the Constitution, which vests the executive power of the federal government in the President, did not create a monarchy. The President is cloaked with none of the attributes of sovereign immunity. To the contrary, the President, like all other government officials, is subject to the same laws that apply to all other members of our society. As the Supreme Court has observed, "Our system of jurisprudence rests on the assumption that all individuals, whatever their position in government, are subject to federal law...." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 506, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 2910, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978). Nevertheless, mindful that for the sake of the nation's general good the Constitution empowers officials to act within the scope of their official responsibilities, the Supreme Court has recognized "that there are some officials whose special functions require a full exemption from liability" for their performance of official acts. Id. at 508, 98 S.Ct. at 2911. The list of those entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability includes the President of the United States for his official acts, Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731, 756, 102 S.Ct. 2690, 2704, 73 L.Ed.2d 349 (1982); members of Congress for their legislative acts, regardless of motive, under the Speech and Debate Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, Sec. 6, Dombrowski v. Eastland, 387 U.S. 82, 84-85, 87 S.Ct. 1425, 1427-28, 18 L.Ed.2d 577 (1967) (per curiam); Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 372, 377, 71 S.Ct. 783, 786, 788, 95 L.Ed. 1019 (1951); judges in courts of general jurisdiction for judicial acts, Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359-60, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 1106-07, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 1218, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967); prosecutors for prosecutorial functions, Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427, 96 S.Ct. 984, 993, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976); and certain executive officials performing certain judicial and prosecutorial functions in their official capacities, Butz, 438 U.S. at 514-15, 98 S.Ct. at 2914-15. In addition, witnesses are entitled to absolute immunity from civil suit for testimony given in judicial proceedings, Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 334, 103 S.Ct. 1108, 1115, 75 L.Ed.2d 96 (1983), and even government officials whose special functions do not require a full exemption from liability...
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