International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

the U.S. Constitution. This case contained conflicts between a specific central part of judicial authority and general elements of executive authority. In this separation-ofpowers issue between these branches, the Supreme Court rejected the presidential claim of an absolute privilege against a subpoena essential to the enforcement of criminal statutes.

The extent and applicability of executive privilege was examined in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425( 1977). The Supreme Court decided that executive privilege applies only to the current president. The privilege serves as a shield for executive officials against burdensome requests for information; these requests could interfere with the proper performance of their duties. The Court resolved the question of whether executive privilege applies to the presidency as an office. The Court adopted the latter view in this case and argued that executive privilege is a benefit to the nation at large.

There are regular confrontations between congressional committees' exercise of investigatory powers and presidential claims of executive privilege. Robert J. Spitzer ( 1993) found that the struggle for hegemony between executive and legislative branches is located in Congress's ability to investigate executive or administrative programs. Presidents have instructed executive officials to refuse to comply with congressional demands for information. The executive claims the requested information will interfere with the public good or confidential deliberations. William Lockhart et al. ( 1986) has argued that between 1952 and 1974 "executive privilege has been asserted more than fifty times to deny documents or testimony to Congress, at least twenty times in the Nixon Administration alone" (p. 179).

Questions of executive privilege concerning congressional investigations have usually been resolved through political negotiations among the parties. If these claims cannot be resolved, Congress may punish administrative agency representatives for contempt of its investigatory powers. The courts have not clearly resolved these conflicts concerning when the executive can withhold information from congressional investigatory committees.

An important element of Congress's investigatory powers is oversight of the administration and implementation of governmental programs. 1rolew ( 1990) argued that "in general Presidents agree to make papers and documents available for impeachment inquiries or congressional investigations of administrative corruption" (p. 233). However, Presidents may refuse to answer subpoenas from congressional committees by claiming executive privilege. The strongest confrontation on this issue occurred in 1974 when President Nixon repeatedly refused to honor subpoenas for information by the House Judiciary Committee. These subpoenas included information concerning the impeachment inquiry. The main question is, When does a congressional committee's need to know outweigh the executive's general claims of confidentiality? U.S. v. Nixon specifically avoided this question. The Court's analysis in this case also avoided determining the application of executive privilege to civil litigation.

Executive privilege has been granted constitutional status in the latter part of the twentieth century. Executive privilege allows the President to retain confidentiality in communications concerning vital executive processes. Claims of executive privilege must be balanced against the demands of legislative and judicial branches.



Berger, Raoul, 1974. Executive Privilege: A Constitutional Myth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Dorsen, Norman, and John H. F. Shattuck, 1974. "Executive Privilege, the Congress and the Courts." Ohio State Law Journal, vol. 35: 1-40.

Fisher, Louis, 1990. American Constitutional Law. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Friedman, Leon, and William E. Levantrosser, 1992. Watergate and Afterward: The Legacy of Richard Nixon. Wesport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Hardin, Charles M., 1974. Presidential Power and Accountability. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Henkin, Louis, 1974. "Executive Privilege: Mr. Nixon Loses but the Presidency Largely Prevails." University of California Los Angeles Law Review, vol. 22: 40-46.

Lockhart, William et al., 1986. The American Constitution: Cases, Comments, and Questions. St. Paul: West.

Schwartz, Bernard, 1990. The Ascent of Pragmatism: The Burger Court in Action. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Shane, Peter M., 1992. "Negotiating for Knowledge: Administrative Responses to Congressional Demands for Information" Administrative Law Review, vol. 44 (Spring): 197-244.

Spitzer, Robert J., 1993. President and Congress: Executive Hegemony at the Crossroads of American Government. Philadelphia: TempleUniversity Press.

United States v. Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, 418 U.S. 683( 1974).

EXIT INTERVIEW . An interview with any and all workers who are ending their employment with an organization. The term is usually applied to a routinized procedure that is intended to generate systematic feedback from workers who have quit or been terminated for cause. It is not customarily used to describe the more informal discussions that take place when workers are simply advised about benefits, unemployment compensation, or procedures for turning in keys and equipment.

A Very Brief History

Prior to recent times, departing workers were ordinarily sent off without much ceremony. One of the most persis


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