Trump Has the Worst Record at The Supreme Court of Any Modern PresidentBreaking News
tags: Supreme Court, presidential history, Donald Trump
After the Supreme Court ruled that President Trump could not block New York prosecutors and other investigators from seeing his financial records, he tweeted, “Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference’. BUT NOT ME!”
Although the court’s decision in the tax records case was well-reasoned and persuasive, the president was arguing — with characteristic touchiness — that he has been treated more harshly by the Supreme Court than his predecessors in the White House. There’s a grain of truth in his complaint. Trump’s success rate at the Supreme Court is quite low: He has prevailed only 47 percent of the time, a worse record than that of his predecessors going back at least as far as Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Since Roosevelt’s administration, presidents have won roughly two-thirds of their cases. During the Reagan years, the presidential victory rate reached 75 percent — which turned out to be the high-water mark. Each succeeding president has scored worse than that, bottoming out with Trump.
The downward trend suggests that the court is not singling out Trump. The high court is ruling against presidents of both parties more often in recent years. On the other hand, Trump’s basement-level rate suggests there is something distinctive about this administration. The likelihood is that his low victory rate is not due to unfair treatment by a Republican-dominated court but rather the incompetence of his administration.
In using the phrase “broad deference,” Trump was invoking a legal tradition that recognizes the central role of the president in government. This norm requires courts to give weight to the factual determinations made by the executive branch (for example, whether a substance subject to environmental regulation is toxic). It also requires courts to defer to the executive branch’s legal interpretations of statutes when those statues are ambiguous. Moreover, courts protect the president from litigation that intrudes on the office — for example, suits that interfere with the confidentiality of deliberations or that distract the president from his duties.
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