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