WASHINGTON – House Republicans’ efforts to sue President Barack Obama are chugging along. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has announced his rationale for suing the president – namely, executive actions Obama took to change the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
This isn’t the first time that a president – in or out of office – has been sued. Although some lawsuits have been pointless, as Obama says Boehner’s action is, some have had a significant impact in defining the office of president.
Here are some of the previous instances when presidents have encountered litigation.
1962: Bailey v. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy was sued during his time in office by Hugh Lee Bailey, a Mississippi state senator, over injuries Bailey suffered in a car accident two years earlier. Although Kennedy wasn’t directly involved, Bailey claimed that injuries caused by Kennedy’s driver left him unable to ride his donkey. Kennedy settled for $17,500.
1974: United States v. Nixon
In the latter stages of the Watergate scandal, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski obtained a subpoena ordering President Richard Nixon to turn over certain tapes and papers. Nixon refused and went to the Supreme Court to argue against handing them over. The justices unanimously ruled against Nixon. This crucial decision rejected Nixon’s claim of absolute, unqualified presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances. Fifteen days after the ruling, Nixon announced his resignation. It was a landmark moment in defining the powers of the president.
1984: Phelps v. Reagan
Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, sued President Ronald Reagan for his appointment of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, arguing that it breached the divide between church and state. Phelps filed the case in the U.S. District Court in Topeka, Kansas, where the church was based. The suit was thrown out by Judge Richard Rogers, who said Phelps lacked standing to sue and ruled that Reagan hadn’t violated the First Amendment.
1997: Jones v. Clinton
Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, filed a sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton. This was another landmark case, and it established that presidents have no immunity from civil litigation – and that presidents can be sued for actions unrelated to and before their time in office. After 4 1/2 years, Clinton reached an out-of-court settlement with Jones, paying her $850,000. Numerous embarrassing allegations about the president’s sex life also were made public.
2000: Bush v. Gore
With the outcome of the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore too close to call in Florida, the state’s Supreme Court ordered a statewide manual recount. After weeks of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling stopped the recount – stating it was unconstitutional – which meant that Bush’s slim lead in Florida held up. The ruling essentially named Bush the 43rd president.
2011: Kucinich v. Obama
Boehner isn’t the first member of Congress to try to sue Obama. Two years ago, then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and eight other House members filed a lawsuit against Obama arguing that he had violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution by taking military action in Libya without consulting Congress. A federal judge shot down the case, stating that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue.
2013: Saleh v. Bush
Bush is being sued, along with several members of his administration, by a single Iraqi mother over alleged crimes of aggression against the Iraqi people and alleged violations of the Nuremberg Principles, which are used to help determine whether war crimes have been committed. The Obama administration has twice filed motions to dismiss the case but has been unsuccessful each time. Saleh filed her second amended complaint June 8.