Supreme Court Sets Date for Trump Immunity Appeal

Sam Dorman
By Sam Dorman
March 6, 2024Supreme Court
Supreme Court Sets Date for Trump Immunity Appeal
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald J. Trump takes the stage to speak on Super Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 5, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The Supreme Court has set April 25 as the date that it will hear oral argument over former President Donald Trump’s claim that he enjoys immunity from prosecution in his D.C. trial.

Announced on March 6, it’s likely to be a historic hearing as the justices will tackle a momentous and relatively untested constitutional question that could impact the election cycle. More specifically, they agreed to consider the question: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

The April date is roughly five months after Special Counsel Jack Smith requested the court expedite President Trump’s appeal and bypass the usual course in which a lower court of appeals hears the case.

President Trump ultimately lost his appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which rejected his argument that presidents must be impeached and convicted by Congress before they can face criminal prosecution in Article III courts.

Mr. Smith and D.C. Judge Tanya Chutkan were aiming for a March 4 start date for President Trump’s trial but that ultimately got postponed by his appeal in the D.C. Circuit. The Supreme Court’s latest move gives President Trump more time and throws the trial as a whole into jeopardy as he is arguing that each of the activities alleged in Mr. Smith’s indictment are protected by presidential immunity.

Mr. Smith has emphasized what he described as public interest in a quick trial while President Trump and an amicus brief from 22 states have criticized the pace of the prosecution.

Major Constitutional Questions

On Feb. 28, the court announced it would hear oral argument in President Trump’s immunity appeal while effectively halting proceedings before Judge Chutkan. It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will release a decision within a month as it did in the Colorado case. The justices are already facing public scrutiny over their decision to take the case and will likely feel pressure to release something quickly so that lower court proceedings can continue.

The D.C. Circuit issued its decision on President Trump’s immunity appeal roughly a month after oral argument. It gave the Supreme Court a lengthy opinion to work with but one that the justices could nonetheless reject.

The immunity appeal case is the second major case the court is scheduled to hear surrounding President Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, 2021. Following another argument in February, the justices issued a unanimous judgment on March 4 that overturned the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that President Trump was disqualified from appearing on the state’s ballot.

Like that case, the presidential immunity case will likely feature big questions about various constitutional provisions and the delineation of authority between different aspects of the American government.  The court’s March 4 judgment effectively ruled that Congress, rather than state and federal courts, could disqualify candidates for federal office.

In his immunity appeal, President Trump similarly argued that Congress had authority that superseded involvement by the judiciary. His brief warned that without his interpretation of immunity, presidents would see destructive cycles of recrimination that would hinder their ability to make decisions.

Mr. Smith, meanwhile, has maintained that existing safeguards in the criminal justice system would prevent abusive prosecutions and that President Trump’s position found “no support in constitutional text, separation-of-powers principles, history, or logic.”

Whatever the court decides, it will likely set a landmark precedent that could affect future elections and decisions by all three branches of the federal government.

While the Constitution doesn’t explicitly grant presidential immunity, its provisions have been interpreted to protect certain forms of presidential decision-making from judicial review. Prior court decisions have been understood to protect presidents from civil liability for actions that fell within the official duties of their office. Whether all of President Trump’s actions in the indictment were “official” has been disputed, as has whether immunity extends to allegedly criminal acts.

From The Epoch Times

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