Clinton v. Jones (1997)

Clinton v. Jones: Questions

  1. How does Clinton v. Jones interpret the decision in Nixon v. Fitzgerald with reference to the reasons for presidential immunity from civil actions for damages?
  2. Compare the Court’s use of history in footnote 2 of Nixon v. Fitzgerald with its evaluation of the same history in Clinton v. Jones.

Clinton v. Jones

520 U.S. 681 (1997)

[Majority: Stevens, Rehnquist (C.J.), O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg. Concurring: Breyer.]

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case raises a constitutional and a prudential question concerning the Office of the President of the United States. Respondent, a private citizen, seeks to recover damages from the current occupant of that office based on actions allegedly taken before his term began. The President submits that in all but the most exceptional cases the Constitution requires federal courts to defer such litigation until his term ends and that, in any event, respect for the office warrants such a stay. Despite the force of the arguments supporting the President’s submissions, we conclude that they must be rejected.

Petitioner, William Jefferson Clinton, was elected to the Presidency in 1992, and re-elected in 1996. His term of office expires on January 20, 2001. In 1991 he was the Governor of the State of Arkansas. Respondent, Paula Corbin Jones, is a resident of California. In 1991 she lived in Arkansas, and was an employee of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.

On May 6, 1994, she commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by filing a complaint naming petitioner and Danny Ferguson, a former Arkansas State Police officer, as defendants. The complaint alleges two federal claims, and two state law claims over which the federal court has jurisdiction because of the diverse citizenship of the parties. As the case comes to us, we are required to assume the truth of the detailed — but as yet untested — factual allegations in the complaint.

Those allegations principally describe events that are said to have occurred on the afternoon of May 8, 1991, during an official conference held at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Governor delivered a speech at the conference; respondent — working as a state employee — staffed the registration desk. She alleges that Ferguson persuaded her to leave her desk and to visit the Governor in a business suite at the hotel, where he made “abhorrent” sexual advances that she vehemently rejected. She further claims that her superiors at work subsequently dealt with her in a hostile and rude manner, and changed her duties to punish her for rejecting those advances. Finally, she alleges that after petitioner was elected President, Ferguson defamed her by making a statement to a reporter that implied she had accepted petitioner’s alleged overtures, and that various persons authorized to speak for the President publicly branded her a liar by denying that the incident had occurred.

Respondent seeks actual damages of $75,000 and punitive damages of $100,000. Her complaint contains four counts. The first charges that petitioner, acting under color of state law, deprived her of rights protected by the Constitution, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The second charges that petitioner and Ferguson engaged in a conspiracy to violate her federal rights, also actionable under federal law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1985. The third is a state common law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, grounded primarily on the incident at the hotel. The fourth count, also based on state law, is for defamation, embracing both the comments allegedly made to the press by Ferguson and the statements of petitioner’s agents. Inasmuch as the legal sufficiency of the claims has not yet been challenged, we assume, without deciding, that each of the four counts states a cause of action as a matter of law. With the exception of the last charge, which arguably may involve conduct within the outer perimeter of the President’s official responsibilities, it is perfectly clear that the alleged misconduct of petitioner was unrelated to any of his official duties as President of the United States and, indeed, occurred before he was elected to that office.

  1. In response to the complaint, petitioner promptly advised the District Court that he intended to file a motion to dismiss on grounds of Presidential immunity, and requested the court to defer all other pleadings and motions until after the immunity issue was resolved. Relying on our cases holding that immunity questions should be decided at the earliest possible stage of the litigation, our recognition of the “‘singular importance of the President’s duties,'” and the fact that the question did not require any analysis of the allegations of the complaint, the court granted the request. Petitioner thereupon filed a motion “to dismiss . . . without prejudice and to toll any statutes of limitation [that may be applicable] until he is no longer President, at which time the plaintiff may refile the instant suit.” Extensive submissions were made to the District Court by the parties and the Department of Justice.

The District Judge denied the motion to dismiss on immunity grounds and ruled that discovery in the case could go forward, but ordered any trial stayed until the end of petitioner’s Presidency. Although she recognized that a “thin majority” in Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982), had held that “the President has absolute immunity from civil damage actions arising out of the execution of official duties of office,” she was not convinced that “a President has absolute immunity from civil causes of action arising prior to assuming the office.” She was, however, persuaded by some of the reasoning in our opinion in Fitzgerald that deferring the trial if one were required would be appropriate. Relying in part on the fact that respondent had failed to bring her complaint until two days before the 3-year period of limitations expired, she concluded that the public interest in avoiding litigation that might hamper the President in conducting the duties of his office outweighed any demonstrated need for an immediate trial.

Both parties appealed. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss, but because it regarded the order postponing the trial until the President leaves office as the “functional equivalent” of a grant of temporary immunity, it reversed that order. Writing for the majority, Judge Bowman explained that “the President, like all other government officials, is subject to the same laws that apply to all other members of our society,” that he could find no “case in which any public official ever has been granted any immunity from suit for his unofficial acts,” and that the rationale for official immunity “is inapposite where only personal, private conduct by a President is at issue.” The majority specifically rejected the argument that, unless immunity is available, the threat of judicial interference with the Executive Branch through scheduling orders, potential contempt citations, and sanctions would violate separation-of-powers principles. Judge Bowman suggested that “judicial case management sensitive to the burdens of the presidency and the demands of the President’s schedule” would avoid the perceived danger.

In dissent, Judge Ross submitted that even though the holding in Fitzgerald involved official acts, the logic of the opinion, which “placed primary reliance on the prospect that the President’s discharge of his constitutional powers and duties would be impaired if he were subject to suits for damages,” applies with equal force to this case. In his view, “unless exigent circumstances can be shown,” all private actions for damages against a sitting President must be stayed until the completion of his term. In this case, Judge Ross saw no reason why the stay would prevent respondent from ultimately obtaining an adjudication of her claims. . . .

III. The President, represented by private counsel, filed a petition for certiorari. The Acting Solicitor General, representing the United States, supported the petition, arguing that the decision of the Court of Appeals was “fundamentally mistaken” and created “serious risks for the institution of the Presidency.” In her brief in opposition to certiorari, respondent argued that this “one-of-a-kind case is singularly inappropriate” for the exercise of our certiorari jurisdiction because it did not create any conflict among the Courts of Appeals, it “does not pose any conceivable threat to the functioning of the Executive Branch,” and there is no precedent supporting the President’s position.

While our decision to grant the petition expressed no judgment concerning the merits of the case, it does reflect our appraisal of its importance. The representations made on behalf of the Executive Branch as to the potential impact of the precedent established by the Court of Appeals merit our respectful and deliberate consideration. . . .[1]

  1. Petitioner’s principal submission — that “in all but the most exceptional cases,” the Constitution affords the President temporary immunity from civil damages litigation arising out of events that occurred before he took office — cannot be sustained on the basis of precedent. . . .

The principal rationale for affording certain public servants immunity from suits for money damages arising out of their official acts is inapplicable to unofficial conduct. In cases involving prosecutors, legislators, and judges we have repeatedly explained that the immunity serves the public interest in enabling such officials to perform their designated functions effectively without fear that a particular decision may give rise to personal liability. We explained in Ferri v. Ackerman (1979):

As public servants, the prosecutor and the judge represent the interest of society as a whole. The conduct of their official duties may adversely affect a wide variety of different individuals, each of whom may be a potential source of future controversy. The societal interest in providing such public officials with the maximum ability to deal fearlessly and impartially with the public at large has long been recognized as an acceptable justification for official immunity. The point of immunity for such officials is to forestall an atmosphere of intimidation that would conflict with their resolve to perform their designated functions in a principled fashion.

That rationale provided the principal basis for our holding that a former President of the United States was “entitled to absolute immunity from damages liability predicated on his official acts,” Fitzgerald. Our central concern was to avoid rendering the President “unduly cautious in the discharge of his official duties.”[2]

This reasoning provides no support for an immunity for unofficial conduct. As we explained in Fitzgerald, “the sphere of protected action must be related closely to the immunity’s justifying purposes.” Because of the President’s broad responsibilities, we recognized in that case an immunity from damages claims arising out of official acts extending to the “outer perimeter of his authority.” But we have never suggested that the President, or any other official, has an immunity that extends beyond the scope of any action taken in an official capacity. See Fitzgerald (Burger, C.J., concurring) (noting that “a President, like Members of Congress, judges, prosecutors, or congressional aides — all having absolute immunity — are not immune for acts outside official duties”).

Moreover, when defining the scope of an immunity for acts clearly taken within an official capacity, we have applied a functional approach. “Frequently our decisions have held that an official’s absolute immunity should extend only to acts in performance of particular functions of his office.” Hence, for example, a judge’s absolute immunity does not extend to actions performed in a purely administrative capacity. As our opinions have made clear, immunities are grounded in “the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it.”

Petitioner’s effort to construct an immunity from suit for unofficial acts grounded purely in the identity of his office is unsupported by precedent.

  1. We are also unpersuaded by the evidence from the historical record to which petitioner has called our attention. He points to a comment by Thomas Jefferson protesting the subpoena duces tecum Chief Justice Marshall directed to him in the Burr trial, a statement in the diaries kept by Senator William Maclay of the first Senate debates, in which then Vice President John Adams and Senator Oliver Ellsworth are recorded as having said that “the President personally [is] not . . . subject to any process whatever,” lest it be “put . . . in the power of a common Justice to exercise any Authority over him and Stop the Whole Machine of Government,” and to a quotation from Justice Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution. None of these sources sheds much light on the question at hand.[3]

Respondent, in turn, has called our attention to conflicting historical evidence. Speaking in favor of the Constitution’s adoption at the Pennsylvania Convention, James Wilson — who had participated in the Philadelphia Convention at which the document was drafted — explained that, although the President “is placed [on] high,” “not a single privilege is annexed to his character; far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.” This description is consistent with both the doctrine of presidential immunity as set forth in Fitzgerald, and rejection of the immunity claim in this case. With respect to acts taken in his “public character” — that is, official acts — the President may be disciplined principally by impeachment, not by private lawsuits for damages. But he is otherwise subject to the laws for his purely private acts.

In the end, as applied to the particular question before us, we reach the same conclusion about these historical materials that Justice Jackson described when confronted with an issue concerning the dimensions of the President’s power. “Just what our forefathers did envision, or would have envisioned had they foreseen modern conditions, must be divined from materials almost as enigmatic as the dreams Joseph was called upon to interpret for Pharoah. A century and a half of partisan debate and scholarly speculation yields no net result but only supplies more or less apt quotations from respected sources on each side. . . . They largely cancel each other.” Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952) (concurring opinion).

  1. Petitioner’s strongest argument supporting his immunity claim is based on the text and structure of the Constitution. He does not contend that the occupant of the Office of the President is “above the law,” in the sense that his conduct is entirely immune from judicial scrutiny. The President argues merely for a postponement of the judicial proceedings that will determine whether he violated any law. His argument is grounded in the character of the office that was created by Article II of the Constitution, and relies on separation-of-powers principles that have structured our constitutional arrangement since the founding.

As a starting premise, petitioner contends that he occupies a unique office with powers and responsibilities so vast and important that the public interest demands that he devote his undivided time and attention to his public duties. He submits that — given the nature of the office — the doctrine of separation of powers places limits on the authority of the Federal Judiciary to interfere with the Executive Branch that would be transgressed by allowing this action to proceed.

We have no dispute with the initial premise of the argument. [The Court cited examples of the extraordinary demands of the job.]

It does not follow, however, that separation of powers principles would be violated by allowing this action to proceed. The doctrine of separation of powers is concerned with the allocation of official power among the three co-equal branches of our Government. The Framers “built into the tripartite Federal Government . . . a self-executing safeguard against the encroachment or aggrandizement of one branch at the expense of the other.” Buckley v. Valeo (1976). Thus, for example, the Congress may not exercise the judicial power to revise final judgments, Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc. (1995), or the executive power to manage an airport, see Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority v. Citizens for Abatement of Aircraft Noise, Inc. (1991) (holding that “[i]f the power is executive, the Constitution does not permit an agent of Congress to exercise it”). See J. W. Hampton, Jr., & Co. v. United States (1928) (Congress may not “invest itself or its members with either executive power or judicial power”). Similarly, the President may not exercise the legislative power to authorize the seizure of private property for public use. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). And, the judicial power to decide cases and controversies does not include the provision of purely advisory opinions to the Executive, or permit the federal courts to resolve nonjusticiable questions.

Of course the lines between the powers of the three branches are not always neatly defined. But in this case there is no suggestion that the Federal Judiciary is being asked to perform any function that might in some way be described as “executive.” Respondent is merely asking the courts to exercise their core Article III jurisdiction to decide cases and controversies. Whatever the outcome of this case, there is no possibility that the decision will curtail the scope of the official powers of the Executive Branch. The litigation of questions that relate entirely to the unofficial conduct of the individual who happens to be the President poses no perceptible risk of misallocation of either judicial power or executive power.

Rather than arguing that the decision of the case will produce either an aggrandizement of judicial power or a narrowing of executive power, petitioner contends that — as a by product of an otherwise traditional exercise of judicial power — burdens will be placed on the President that will hamper the performance of his official duties. We have recognized that “[e]ven when a branch does not arrogate power to itself . . . the separation-of-powers doctrine requires that a branch not impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties.” Loving v. United States (1996). As a factual matter, petitioner contends that this particular case — as well as the potential additional litigation that an affirmance of the Court of Appeals judgment might spawn — may impose an unacceptable burden on the President’s time and energy, and thereby impair the effective performance of his office.

Petitioner’s predictive judgment finds little support in either history or the relatively narrow compass of the issues raised in this particular case. As we have already noted, in the more than 200-year history of the Republic, only three sitting Presidents have been subjected to suits for their private actions. If the past is any indicator, it seems unlikely that a deluge of such litigation will ever engulf the Presidency. As for the case at hand, if properly managed by the District Court, it appears to us highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of petitioner’s time.

Of greater significance, petitioner errs by presuming that interactions between the Judicial Branch and the Executive, even quite burdensome interactions, necessarily rise to the level of constitutionally forbidden impairment of the Executive’s ability to perform its constitutionally mandated functions. “[O]ur . . . system imposes upon the Branches a degree of overlapping responsibility, a duty of interdependence as well as independence the absence of which ‘would preclude the establishment of a Nation capable of governing itself effectively.'” Mistretta v. United States (1989). As Madison explained, separation of powers does not mean that the branches “ought to have no partial agency in, or no controul over the acts of each other.” The fact that a federal court’s exercise of its traditional Article III jurisdiction may significantly burden the time and attention of the Chief Executive is not sufficient to establish a violation of the Constitution. Two long-settled propositions, first announced by Chief Justice Marshall, support that conclusion.

First, we have long held that when the President takes official action, the Court has the authority to determine whether he has acted within the law. Perhaps the most dramatic example of such a case is our holding that President Truman exceeded his constitutional authority when he issued an order directing the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of and operate most of the Nation’s steel mills in order to avert a national catastrophe. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. Despite the serious impact of that decision on the ability of the Executive Branch to accomplish its assigned mission, and the substantial time that the President must necessarily have devoted to the matter as a result of judicial involvement, we exercised our Article III jurisdiction to decide whether his official conduct conformed to the law. Our holding was an application of the principle established in Marbury v. Madison (1803), that “[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

Second, it is also settled that the President is subject to judicial process in appropriate circumstances. Although Thomas Jefferson apparently thought otherwise, Chief Justice Marshall, when presiding in the treason trial of Aaron Burr, ruled that a subpoena duces tecum could be directed to the President. United States v. Burr (C.C.D. Va. 1807). We unequivocally and emphatically endorsed Marshall’s position when we held that President Nixon was obligated to comply with a subpoena commanding him to produce certain tape recordings of his conversations with his aides. United States v. Nixon (1974). As we explained, “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.”

Sitting Presidents have responded to court orders to provide testimony and other information with sufficient frequency that such interactions between the Judicial and Executive Branches can scarcely be thought a novelty. President Monroe responded to written interrogatories. President Nixon — as noted above — produced tapes in response to a subpoena duces tecum, President Ford complied with an order to give a deposition in a criminal trial, and President Clinton has twice given videotaped testimony in criminal proceedings. Moreover, sitting Presidents have also voluntarily complied with judicial requests for testimony. President Grant gave a lengthy deposition in a criminal case under such circumstances, and President Carter similarly gave videotaped testimony for use at a criminal trial.

In sum, “[i]t is settled law that the separation-of-powers doctrine does not bar every exercise of jurisdiction over the President of the United States.” Fitzgerald. If the Judiciary may severely burden the Executive Branch by reviewing the legality of the President’s official conduct, and if it may direct appropriate process to the President himself, it must follow that the federal courts have power to determine the legality of his unofficial conduct. The burden on the President’s time and energy that is a mere by product of such review surely cannot be considered as onerous as the direct burden imposed by judicial review and the occasional invalidation of his official actions. We therefore hold that the doctrine of separation of powers does not require federal courts to stay all private actions against the President until he leaves office.

The reasons for rejecting such a categorical rule apply as well to a rule that would require a stay “in all but the most exceptional cases.” Indeed, if the Framers of the Constitution had thought it necessary to protect the President from the burdens of private litigation, we think it far more likely that they would have adopted a categorical rule than a rule that required the President to litigate the question whether a specific case belonged in the “exceptional case” subcategory. In all events, the question whether a specific case should receive exceptional treatment is more appropriately the subject of the exercise of judicial discretion than an interpretation of the Constitution. Accordingly, we turn to the question whether the District Court’s decision to stay the trial until after petitioner leaves office was an abuse of discretion.

VII. The Court of Appeals described the District Court’s discretionary decision to stay the trial as the “functional equivalent” of a grant of temporary immunity. Concluding that petitioner was not constitutionally entitled to such an immunity, the court held that it was error to grant the stay. Although we ultimately conclude that the stay should not have been granted, we think the issue is more difficult than the opinion of the Court of Appeals suggests.

Strictly speaking the stay was not the functional equivalent of the constitutional immunity that petitioner claimed, because the District Court ordered discovery to proceed. Moreover, a stay of either the trial or discovery might be justified by considerations that do not require the recognition of any constitutional immunity. The District Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own docket. As we have explained, “[e]specially in cases of extraordinary public moment, [a plaintiff] may be required to submit to delay not immoderate in extent and not oppressive in its consequences if the public welfare or convenience will thereby be promoted.” Although we have rejected the argument that the potential burdens on the President violate separation of powers principles, those burdens are appropriate matters for the District Court to evaluate in its management of the case. The high respect that is owed to the office of the Chief Executive, though not justifying a rule of categorical immunity, is a matter that should inform the conduct of the entire proceeding, including the timing and scope of discovery.

Nevertheless, we are persuaded that it was an abuse of discretion for the District Court to defer the trial until after the President leaves office. Such a lengthy and categorical stay takes no account whatever of the respondent’s interest in bringing the case to trial. The complaint was filed within the statutory limitations period — albeit near the end of that period — and delaying trial would increase the danger of prejudice resulting from the loss of evidence, including the inability of witnesses to recall specific facts, or the possible death of a party.

The decision to postpone the trial was, furthermore, premature. The proponent of a stay bears the burden of establishing its need. In this case, at the stage at which the District Court made its ruling, there was no way to assess whether a stay of trial after the completion of discovery would be warranted. Other than the fact that a trial may consume some of the President’s time and attention, there is nothing in the record to enable a judge to assess the potential harm that may ensue from scheduling the trial promptly after discovery is concluded. We think the District Court may have given undue weight to the concern that a trial might generate unrelated civil actions that could conceivably hamper the President in conducting the duties of his office. If and when that should occur, the court’s discretion would permit it to manage those actions in such fashion (including deferral of trial) that interference with the President’s duties would not occur. But no such impingement upon the President’s conduct of his office was shown here.

VIII. We add a final comment on two matters that are discussed at length in the briefs: the risk that our decision will generate a large volume of politically motivated harassing and frivolous litigation, and the danger that national security concerns might prevent the President from explaining a legitimate need for a continuance.

We are not persuaded that either of these risks is serious. Most frivolous and vexatious litigation is terminated at the pleading stage or on summary judgment, with little if any personal involvement by the defendant. Moreover, the availability of sanctions provides a significant deterrent to litigation directed at the President in his unofficial capacity for purposes of political gain or harassment. History indicates that the likelihood that a significant number of such cases will be filed is remote. Although scheduling problems may arise, there is no reason to assume that the District Courts will be either unable to accommodate the President’s needs or unfaithful to the tradition — especially in matters involving national security — of giving “the utmost deference to Presidential responsibilities.” Several Presidents, including petitioner, have given testimony without jeopardizing the Nation’s security. In short, we have confidence in the ability of our federal judges to deal with both of these concerns.

If Congress deems it appropriate to afford the President stronger protection, it may respond with appropriate legislation. As petitioner notes in his brief, Congress has enacted more than one statute providing for the deferral of civil litigation to accommodate important public interests. See, e.g., 11 U.S.C. § 362 (litigation against debtor stayed upon filing of bankruptcy petition); Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501–525 (provisions governing, inter alia, tolling or stay of civil claims by or against military personnel during course of active duty). If the Constitution embodied the rule that the President advocates, Congress, of course, could not repeal it. But our holding today raises no barrier to a statutory response to these concerns.

The Federal District Court has jurisdiction to decide this case. Like every other citizen who properly invokes that jurisdiction, respondent has a right to an orderly disposition of her claims. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Justice Breyer, concurring in the judgment. [Omitted.]


[1]. The two questions presented in the certiorari petition are: “1. Whether the litigation of a private civil damages action against an incumbent President must in all but the most exceptional cases be deferred until the President leaves office”; and “2. Whether a district court, as a proper exercise of judicial discretion, may stay such litigation until the President leaves office.” Our review is confined to these issues.


[2]. Petitioner draws our attention to dicta in Fitzgerald, which he suggests are helpful to his cause. We noted there that “[b]ecause of the singular importance of the President’s duties, diversion of his energies by concern with private lawsuits would raise unique risks to the effective functioning of government,” and suggested further that “[c]ognizance of . . . personal vulnerability frequently could distract a President from his public duties.” Petitioner argues that in this aspect the Court’s concern was parallel to the issue he suggests is of great importance in this case, the possibility that a sitting President might be distracted by the need to participate in litigation during the pendency of his office. In context, however, it is clear that our dominant concern was with the diversion of the President’s attention during the decisionmaking process caused by needless worry as to the possibility of damages actions stemming from any particular official decision. Moreover, Fitzgerald did not present the issue raised in this case because that decision involved claims against a former President.


[3]. Jefferson’s argument provides little support for respondent’s position. As we explain later, the prerogative Jefferson claimed was denied him by the Chief Justice in the very decision Jefferson was protesting, and this Court has subsequently reaffirmed that holding. See United States v. Nixon (1974). The statements supporting a similar proposition recorded in Senator Maclay’s diary are inconclusive of the issue before us here for the same reason. In addition, this material is hardly proof of the unequivocal common understanding at the time of the founding. Immediately after mentioning the positions of Adams and Ellsworth, Maclay went on to point out in his diary that he virulently disagreed with them, concluding that his opponents’ view “[s]hows clearly how amazingly fond of the old leven many People are.” Diary of Maclay 168.

Finally, Justice Story’s comments in his constitutional law treatise provide no substantial support for respondent’s position. Story wrote that because the President’s “incidental powers” must include “the power to perform [his duties], without any obstruction,” he “cannot, therefore, be liable to arrest, imprisonment, or detention, while he is in the discharge of the duties of his office; and for this purpose his person must be deemed, in civil cases at least, to possess an official inviolability.” 3 Story, § 1563, at 418–19 (emphasis added). Story said only that “an official inviolability,” was necessary to preserve the President’s ability to perform the functions of the office; he did not specify the dimensions of the necessary immunity. While we have held that an immunity from suits grounded on official acts is necessary to serve this purpose, see Fitzgerald, it does not follow that the broad immunity from all civil damages suits that petitioner seeks is also necessary.