Presidential Succession Part II

Take a scholarly but practical look at the adequacy of the Presidential Succession Process and help to improve it.

The Twenty-fifth Amendment created mechanisms for declaring the president disabled and filling vacancies in the office of the vice president. It also clarified the status of a vice president who succeeds to the presidency. Although the amendment addressed the most serious gaps in the succession system, it was not politically or practically possible for it to address every contingency.

In Part I of the Presidential Succession Clinic, held in Fall 2010, the nine students who participated worked with an outside panel of experts on presidential succession to consider these issues. Their report was published in Volume 81 of the Law Review.

In Part II, begun in Fall 2016, under the supervision of former Dean John Feerick, this clinic will again develop proposals, some in the form of draft legislation, to resolve succession issues that have received little attention from scholars and commissions since the twenty-fifth amendment was ratified -- nearly fifty years ago.

That focus will continue during the Spring 2017 semester, but also include the topic of medical issues during presidential campaigns. Events during the 2016 campaign have highlighted inadequacies in the political parties' rules in dealing with candidates' health.

Another important focus will be the process that Congress would follow if it needed to decide the issue of the president's disability pursuant to Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth amendment. Under Section 4, if a decision is made by the vice president and a majority of the cabinet that declares the president disabled and removes him from office, and the president disputes that decision, Congress must decide whether the president will remain out of office. This extraordinary power is paralleled only by Congress's impeachment powers. Yet the issue of how Congress would exercise this power has received practically no attention.

The Clinic will also develop a legislative strategy for achieving reform and working to raise awareness of neglected succession issues among members of Congress and the public.

The Presidential Succession Clinic helped me earn a commission on Active Duty in the Army JAG Corps and it prepared me for the intense work commensurate with that position. I was able to prove to prospective employers and the Army that I was capable of working on a team driven to conduct scholarly work and make serious policy recommendations to decision makers. The experience is not only the highlight of my law school career, but also the skills learned during the Clinic form the cornerstone of my practice today.

-- Captain Patrick F. Sweeney

Under the direction of former Dean John Feerick, Fordham has been in the forefront of improving the nation's procedures for handling presidential disabilities and vacancies. The upcoming 50th Anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which Dean Feerick assisted Congress in drafting, and the Fall 2016 presidential election make this a perfect time to continue to focus on this topic.