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How was the Clinton v. Jones (1997)Supreme Court decision important in shaping the interpretation of the Constitution?
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Well, in an indirect way the ruling interprets the Constitution as having more limited executive power. While lawyers for the President were, in a way, trying to prevent future administrations from being slapped with frivolous lawsuits by political opponents, the Supreme Court responded by only protecting those acts committed during a President's term, thus addressing some of their legal concerns while still protecting the rights of plaintiffs.
So the case is really quite specific in terms of dealing with a modern issue, and only refers to the Constitution in an indirect way.
There is a lot of argument among legal scholars about strict constuctionism vs. the interpretation approach. The general idea is that the Constitution was written hundreds of years ago, and the world has changed incredibly in ways the writers could never have imagined. On the other hand, strict constructionists argue that the constitution can be amended to reflect changes in society, and no judge has the right to reinterpret it. However each case, including this one, brings up a new test of our interpretation of the Constitution and those interpretations make up case law, which is considered by future judges.
I think that Clinton v Jones does shape the interpretation of the Constitution because by laying out where presidential immunity does and does not exist, it takes on the question of separation of powers.
When the court ruled that presidential immunity did not protect President Clinton from regular civil litigation, nor from any lawsuits that were a result of actions before he was President, it gave the Judicial Branch a check on executive power. By setting limits on Presidential immunity, it also set limits on Presidential power.
For a concise summary of the case and its conclusion:
I would argue that this case does not really shape the interpretation of the whole Constitution -- it is not about original intent or a "living Constitution" or any other issue like that which is fundamental to all constitutional cases. Instead, I would argue that this case was important in setting out limits on the idea of presidential immunity.
In the case, Pres. Clinton argued that, as president, he should immune from lawsuits against him. This immunity would end after his presidency, but while he was in office, it would exist. The Supreme Court rejected this reasoning, arguing that a president could only be immune from being sued over acts that were related to his duties as president.
By ruling in this way, the Court set a limit on the extent of the privileges of the president. For that reason, the case is important in terms of the interpretation of presidential powers.
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