Plaintiff: State of Mississippi
Defendants: U.S. President Andrew Johnson, General Edward O. C. Ord P laintiff's Claim: That the president should be stopped from enforcing the Reconstruction Act of 1867 because it violated the U.S. Constitution.
Chief Lawyers for Plaintiff: W.L. Sharkey, R. J. Walker
Chief Lawyer for the Defense: U.S. Attorney General Henry Stanberry
Justices for the Court: Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, Nathan Clifford, David Davis, Stephen J. Field, Robert C. Grier, Samuel F. Miller, Samuel Nelson, Noah H. Swayne, James M. Wayne
Date of Decision: April 15, 1867
Decision: Ruled in favor of President Johnson by finding that the Constitution's separation of powers prevents the Court from stopping the President in carrying out his executive duties.
Significance: The Court refused to limit a president's power to carry out the laws passed by Congress, keeping the separation of powers intact. The ruling was important in defining the executive's immunity from lawsuits designed to block his political duties. The decision also held that the Court could not stop a president from enforcing an act of Congress, but could rule on the constitutionality of an act once executed.
Executive immunity refers to a concept highly important to the nation's chief executive, the president. While exercising his executive powers, executive immunity shields the president from judicial (the courts) interference. A court cannot demand or require a president to take action or, on the other hand, stop action on any specific political duty such as enforcing laws made by Congress. The concept is part of the Constitution's system of separation of power. The three branches of federal government, the executive (president), the legislature (Congress), and the judicial (courts), are each protected from undue influence by the others. However, the president's immunity has limits from all challenge. Under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. Congress may impeach and remove a president from office if it finds him guilty of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
A key U.S. Supreme Court ruling on executive immunity, Mississippi v. Johnson (1867), came during a difficult time in American history.
Following the devastating Civil War (1861–1865), the country was trying to heal and address problems that came with the end of slavery. The governmental programs designed to restore order and rebuild the South were called Reconstruction.
Although the post-Civil War battles were fought with words and laws, not cannons and guns, Reconstruction policies pitted North against South, almost as fiercely as the war itself. The North, as the Civil War victor, clearly held an advantage. Following in the footsteps of President Abraham...