What happens is a sitting president refuses to obey a summons to appear in court?


What happens is a sitting president refuses to obey a summons to appear in court? Does he have the right to refuse?

I look forward to your feedback.

A Manhattan appeals panel has rejected President Trump’s request to stay a defamation claim filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant while he’s in office.

“The motion is denied,” five justices from the state’s mid-level Appellate Division wrote in a one-page decision released Thursday. The ruling means the case can move forward.

That was not a ruling on a summons. It was a ruling on whether the lawsuit may go forward.

I understand. My question, though was what would happen if a sitting president were actually summoned and refused?

The trial court can enter sanctions, including a default judgment against the party refusing to appear.

It appears to be a hypothetical, because it would seem overwhelmingly likely that the President would be subject to a deposition, not ordered to appear in court.

Thanks Procrustus. I’m assuming that any such judgments will have little effect on him retaining his office. Or could any such judgments lead to impeachment? If not can these default judgments we carried over to a period after his term/terms of office have expired. Is this uncharted territory?

Bill Clinton was required to sit for a deposition in Paula Jones’ case while he was President. He was later found by the court to have given false testimony, which resulted in a finding of contempt of court, a fine, and an agreed-upon suspension of his license to practice law. This testimony, as well as conflicts between this testimony and his testimony in the independent counsel’s investigation, constituted the formal legal basis for the impeachment proceedings against him.

(Since this is GQ, I will note that I am attempting to limit my response to the bare facts, and this is not intended as any sort of comment on the merits of any of those proceedings).

Technically Clinton agreed to it and was not forced. He could have tried to stay out of it and make courts force the issue or let him off but for whatever reason he didn’t (almost certainly a political calculation on his part).

It’s usually just about money. Shouldn’t effect his ability to stay in office, but that’s up to Congress

Nothing will happen to Trump no matter what he does unless it is so egregious that it produces unbearable political pressure to impeach and convict because that’s the only legal option when dealing with a wayward president. It takes 2/3 of the Senate to convict, and you’d never get that many Republican senators to cross over unless it was a truly horrific situation that would result in their own political demise if they did not vote to convict. He’s almost bulletproof, and he knows it.

Moderator Note

Let’s keep the political commentary out of GQ. No warning issued, but stick to the legal issues.

General Questions Moderator

It would be really interesting to see a court try to enforce said judgement.

That’s quite easy – a judgement is just a debt to be collected against him. So proceed like any collection effort: put a lien on his property, like Trump Tower or Mar-A-Largo, seize his bank account, repossess his car(s), send bailiffs into his house to seize furniture, artworks, electronics to sell at auction.

It’s actually easier to collect on a judgement than it would be to enforce a prison sentence on him: that he could argue against in court on various grounds, or even flee to some other country (like Russia) where they wouldn’t enforce an extradition order against him.

Be serious. You know that the only answer that we can give to this question is: “Who knows? It’s never happened in the past. Unless and until it does, we cannot be certain.”
If you wish us to speculate, we can do so, drawing upon similar situations and their outcomes. But, as with any constitutional crisis, until it happens, we just don’t know the outcome.

…I’m pretty sure if he knew the answer to the question he wouldn’t have asked the question. Perhaps an explanation of what a “constitutional crisis” is and how it applies here would be much more helpful to those of us following along.

There is a legal aspect to this question, and there is a political one. The legal question can be answered factually, at least to some extent (and some posters have been providing such answers). What would actually happen is a political question, and thus would require speculation.

That’s true on the federal level, but the President has no special status whatsoever in state courts, which this seems to have been.

Ok, so hypothetically, let’s say for** no possible reason** will the last 33 votes in the Senate ever turn against the President. (it doesn’t matter why)

Can the President be removed from office if the last 1/3 of the Senate doesn’t agree, or held to account in any meaningful way by a court, whether he shows or not?

By what means would he be removed from office, if not impeachment and subsequent conviction in the Senate?

(Emphasis supplied)
That is totally incorrect. Although the SCOTUS in *Clinton v Jones* 520 U.S. 681 (1997) refused to consder the issue of immunity to suit in State Court, at pg 691 the did state obiter that there would be fedralism and comity concerns.

28 US 1442 permits removal of criminal or civil proceedings institutued against an officer of the US to be removed to Federal Court, so your no special status statment is wrong.