Fordham Law Clinic Highlights Major Gaps in Presidential Succession Plans

Report Reveals Lack of Procedures and Calls for Seven Key Reforms

NEW YORK--()--A Fordham Law School clinic report is calling for wide-ranging improvements to the preparations for presidential succession and inability scenarios, following a yearlong study under the supervision of Professor John D. Feerick, who assisted in crafting the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

The Presidential Succession Clinic recommends that Congress, the White House, and political parties implement critical reforms, including revising and expanding succession laws, adding a mental health professional to the White House Medical Unit, preparing for disputes in Congress over a president’s inability, improving presidential candidates’ health disclosures, and creating procedures for replacing presidential candidates.

The clinic’s recommendations are summarized on a Fordham Law webpage and outlined in a report in the Fordham Law Review.

The lack of procedures for vice presidential inabilities and “dual inabilities” of the president and vice president leaves the country without a clear way to provide for an acting president when the president is disabled, according to the clinic’s findings. The clinic report also asserts that the current line of succession is of questionable constitutionality and could result in an unprepared president. The clinic recommends that Congress pass laws to fix these issues.

Feerick, who is a former dean of Fordham Law School, and Adjunct Professor John Rogan supervised the work of the clinic’s 14 law students during the 2016–2017 academic year.

The clinic conducted extensive research, including interviews with more than 25 experts. Those experts included former Senator Birch Bayh, then-CIA Director John Brennan, former White House Physician Connie Mariano, former White House Counsel Fred Fielding, congressional staffers, and distinguished scholars.

The clinic undertook an unprecedented study of how Congress might resolve a dispute over the president’s capacity under Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. Congress has only 21 days to reach a resolution in such a scenario but has never considered how it would go about determining whether the president is able to govern.

In addition to discussing the clinic’s recommendations, the clinic report describes White House planning for presidential succession and inability, past presidents’ struggles with mental illness and other disabilities, and the history of health issues in modern presidential campaigns.

The release of the Presidential Succession Clinic report is the latest development in Fordham Law School’s rich history with the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which began in 1963 with the Fordham Law Review’s publication of an article by Feerick that influenced the amendment’s drafting.

The law school’s history in this field, including the report that the first Presidential Succession Clinic issued in 2012, is captured in Fordham Law’s online Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive.

Contacts

Fordham Law School
Carrie Johnson, 212-636-7604
cjohnson@fordham.edu

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