Essential Pittsburgh
3:40 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Can The House Sue President Obama?

As Speaker of the House John Boehner moves forward with an unprecedented lawsuit against President Obama, we checked in with University of Pittsburgh Professor of Law David Harris to explain what’s going on.

“This is the first time ... that the House of the Senate has actively moved to sue the president," Harris said. "There’s been nothing like that before.”

He added that although anybody in the United States can sue anybody else, he does not believe this to be a legitimate legal action.

“The major impediment to this suit going forward is what we call ‘standing to sue,’" Harris said. "In federal court, which is where the suit will be, the Constitution requires what they call a ‘case or controversy.’ What that provision has been interpreted to mean over the many years and decades is that the person suing actually has to have a personal stake in the outcome, in the sense that they will be harmed, they will be personally affected."

For instance, maybe I disagree with how the federal government is using tax money to support Obamacare … I can’t go into court as a taxpayer and say ‘stop this,’ because I am not personally affected in the sense of having a personal interest, personal to me any more than any other taxpayer. This is exactly what’s likely to happen ... the House itself is not injured by this action, it is not personally affected by the action of the president … and so a judge is likely to throw it out as lacking that essential ingredient of ‘standing to sue.’”