4 Professors Debate Law For Presidential Disability
Four professors disagreed in a questionnaire sent by a congressional committee last week upon the procedure of relieving the President if he were temporarily disabled.
The House Judiciary Committee asked, "Who should initiate the issue of disability?" Charles Fairman, professor of Law, said that either the Vice-President, or Congress, could do it. Arthur N. Holcombe '06 Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Emeritus, agreed that the primary responsibility rested with the Vice-President, or Congress, if he failed to act.
Mark DeWolfe Howe '28, professor of Law, countered that the Cabinet should initiate action, since he felt that the Vice-President would hesitate to act, being an "interested party." Arthur E. Sutherland, Bussey Professor of Law, agreed that the Cabinet should be responsible.
"Once the question is raised, who should make the decision?" the questionnaire continued. Holcombe and Howe agreed on Congress. Sutherland said the Cabinet.
Fairman believed that Congress should set up a special "extraordinary commission" composed of Supreme Court Judges, lower court Judges, and Congressmen to decide the issue.
There was more agreement, however, on the powers of the body deciding the question of inability. Three of the professors believed whatever the committee, it should only state that the inability was temporary, while Howe thought the Congress could declare that it was permanent.
Just as they did not agree which body should decide on inability, they had different views on who should decide the President had regained his health. Howe suggested Congress, Sutherland the Cabinet.
Fairman held that the President could decide for himself with the "extraordinary commission" intervening in questions of doubt.
The four agree on several fundamental points. The Vice-President should take over the duties and powers of the Presidency in case of a temporary inability but not the office itself.