Sorry, Mr. President

Sorry, Mr. President

Dated: April 14, 2020

President Trump proclaimed yesterday that the President “calls the shots” and that the power of the President is “total.” Vice President Pence backed him up, saying that the power of the President in an emergency is “plenary.”

Sorry, Mr. President, the U.S. Constitution did not establish a monarchy. Far from it. 

The powers of the President are prescribed by the Constitution, and further limited by the powers of the other co-equal branches – Congress and the federal courts – as well as those powers reserved for the states, and ultimately, the people.  

More than 800 years of Anglo-American law dating back to the Magna Carta make clear that no American leader has “total” or “plenary” power. President Trump cannot reverse this history by proclaiming it at a press briefing. But he also cannot be allowed to undermine it through executive fiat, bad faith arguments of enabling legal advisors, the acquiescence of Congressional leaders or, above all, the silence of lawyers.

As attorneys we must stand together as guardians of our Constitution, the laws of our nation, and the principles of our government. 

We stand together to say “NO” to the ridiculous attempts by the President to place a crown on his own head.” 

Signed by the following members of our Steering Committee:

Scott Harshbarger, Chairman — Former National President of Common Cause and two-term Attorney General of Massachusetts
Charles Baron — Emeritus Professor Boston College Law School; Westport Point, MA
Robert Dell — Retired Attorney
Evan Falchuk — Auburndale, MA
Nicholas Fels — Retired partner, Covington & Burling LLP
Eugene Fidell– Counsel at Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP, Washington, DC, and Florence Rogatz Visiting Lecturer at Yale Law School
Ruth Ellen Fitch — Retired partner, Palmer & Dodge; retired President/CEO The Dimock Health Center
Carmen F. Francella — Boston, MA
Fred M. Lowenfels — General Counsel Emeritus at Trammo, Inc., New York
Stanley Marcuss — Former Counsel to the U.S. Senate’s International Finance Subcommittee; former Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Commerce Department; former partner, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; former Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School; retired partner, Bryan Cave Leighton
James F. McHugh — Former Associate Justice, Massachusetts Appeals Court
Thomas Mela — Retired Managing Attorney of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children
John T. Montgomery — Ropes & Gray, former managing partner (retired)
Gershon M. (Gary) Ratner — Founder and Executive Director, Citizens for Effective Schools; former Associate General Counsel for Litigation, U.S. Dep’t of Housing & Urban Development; former Deputy Executive Secretary, U.S. Dep’t of Health, Education & Welfare
Lois Schiffer — Former Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, US Department of Justice and former General Counsel, NOAA
Lisa Weissler — Retired Assistant Attorney General of Alaska
Lucien Wulsin — Founder and retired Executive Director, Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP). Los Angeles, CA