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Nixon v. Fitzgerald


Nixon v. Fitzgerald established the principle of "absolute immunity" for actions taken by a president in the course of his official duties. The Court decided that the presidency was a special office worthy of special protections against civil lawsuits.

Ernest Fitzgerald was a cost analyst employed by the U.S. Air Force. In the final months of the Johnson administration, Fitzgerald testified before Congress about serious cost overruns on the C-5A transport plane. Officials at the Defense Department grew angry over Fitzgerald's "whistleblowing" and worked to devise a plan to eliminate his position. When President Nixon came into office in 1969, Fitzgerald was in fact removed--ostensibly as part of a money saving reorganization plan. In a news conference, however, President Nixon publicly admitted responsibility for Fitzgerald's removal--a statement he later retracted. Fitzgerald complained to the Civil Service Commission, claiming his dismissal came in retaliation for his embarrassing testimony on Capitol Hill. The commission did not find evidence of a political plot, but reinstated Fitzgerald on the grounds that he was removed for personal reasons. In 1982, Fitzgerald proceeded to sue former President Nixon for damages.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Nixon v. Fitzgerald - Significance, The Lower Court Decisions, The Court's Decision, The President Above The Law?