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United States v. Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States

United States Supreme Court
418 U.S. 683 (1974)


Facts

The Watergate scandal surrounding President Richard M. Nixon began during the 1972 presidential campaign between Nixon and Senator George McGovern. Before Nixon won re-election, five burglars broke into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Building complex in Washington, D.C. President Nixon appointed Archibald Cox as a Special Prosecutor to investigate the break-in, but fired him shortly after. Nixon then appointed a second Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski (plaintiff), to conduct the Watergate investigation on behalf of the executive branch of the Government. Five men were indicted for the robbery. Jaworski obtained a subpoena in United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206 (1974), compelling President Nixon to turn over tapes and documents that he believed contained damaging information relating to the five indicted men and the President. President Nixon (defendant) turned over several partially edited tapes and documents, and then he filed a motion to quash the subpoena in the District Court for the District of Columbia. President Nixon argued that he was protected from subpoena on the grounds that communications of the executive branch are absolutely privileged from discovery in court. The district court denied the motion, and both Jaworski and Nixon appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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