United States v. Nixon
418 U.S. 683 (1974)
Following a subpoena of the Watergate tapes by special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, Richard Nixon sought to have them quashed on the ground of executive privilege. The United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 (BURGER, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except REHNQUIST, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.) that the tapes should be released.
The court determined (a) that the courts have the final voice in determining constitutional questions and (b) that no person, not even the President of the United States, is above the law.
Following the ruling, many feared that the President would defy the court. But on August 5, 1974, (two months after the inital subpoena) 64 tape recording transcripts were released. Four days later Nixon resigned.
- "The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment."--Richard Nixon's counsel before the court
- "Neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances. The President's need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the courts. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises."--Chief Justice Warren Burger