Trump v. Vance

140 S.Ct. 2412 (2020)


The New York County District Attorney’s Office opened an investigation into what it opaquely describes as “business transactions involving multiple individuals whose conduct may have violated state law.” The office-acting on behalf of a grand jury-served a subpoena duces tecum on Mazars USA, LLP, the personal accounting firm of President Trump. The subpoena directed Mazars to produce financial records relating to the President and business organizations affiliated with him, including “tax returns and related schedules,” from “2011 to the present.” Trump (P) sued the district attorney and Mazars to enjoin enforcement of the subpoena. He argued that, under Article II and the Supremacy Clause, a sitting President enjoys absolute immunity from state criminal process. He asked the court to issue a “declaratory judgment that the subpoena is invalid and unenforceable while the President is in office” and to permanently enjoin the district attorney “from taking any action to enforce the subpoena.” The District Court dismissed the case based on Younger v. Harris, which generally precludes federal courts from intervening in ongoing state criminal prosecutions. The Court of Appeals held that Younger abstention was inappropriate because that doctrine’s core justification-“preventing friction” between States and the Federal Government-is diminished when state and federal actors are already in conflict, as the district attorney and the President were. The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court’s denial of a preliminary injunction. It concluded that “presidential immunity does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce non-privileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the President.” It rejected that a state grand jury subpoena must satisfy a heightened showing of need. P appealed