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US supreme court abandoned the rule of law and triggered a need for basic reform | Laurence H Tribe

Court’s troubling rulings on presidential immunity and regulatory power make it clear that change is an ethical essential

On 1 July 2024, the US supreme court, after an unconscionable half-year delay that it laughably described as “expedited” treatment, handed down Trump v United States, the immunity ruling placing American presidents above the law by deeming the president a “branch of government … unlike anyone else.” The court’s delay guaranteed that Donald Trump would face the electorate in 2024 without first confronting a jury of his peers instructed to decide, and thus inform voters, whether he was guilty of trying to overthrow the 2020 election.

Famously, the Irish immigrant Thomas Paine advocated that we revolt against the Crown to form an independent country and frame a constitution to prevent the rise of a dictator “who, laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the discontented … [and] sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge”. To that end, Paine asked: “Where … is the King of America?” And he replied: “In America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”

Laurence H Tribe is the Carl M Loeb University professor and professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School

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