Can Donald Trump be sued for $1 trillion over pandemic decisions?
You can add Arnett Thomas to the list of people who believe President Donald Trump did a terrible job handling the pandemic.
The 71-year-old Orange resident has filed a 29-page class action lawsuit in U.S District Court of New Jersey, blaming the twice-impeached president for mishandling the coronavirus emergency and claiming he violated his oath of office by becoming "the very domestic enemy to the Constitution he swore to defend."
Thomas, who told NorthJersey.com columnist Mike Kelly that he is disabled and has no source of income, drew up the lawsuit on his own and has not yet involved a lawyer. He does, however, have 75 co-plaintiffs on the lawsuit, which says Trump "initiated an experiment to achieve a natural herd immunity to COVID-19 without a vaccine as a viable intervention to the disease."
The lawsuit accuses Trump of an "unprecedented partisan relationship" with Republican legislators and supporters that constituted a "three prongs Faustian deal with the devil."
Trump alienated his office from state governors by withholding "vital resources," forcing them to scramble to provide basic necessities of food and shelter to their constituents, the lawsuit says.
The suit singles out Gov. Phil Murphy as an "unsung hero" who had to deal with the pandemic while Trump "golfed incessantly" and went on "discursive tirades and rants on social media."
Alas, Thomas' will likely never see a courtroom because of immunity to lawsuits granted by the U.S. Supreme Court to presidents even after they are out of office.
"A president in the performance of his duties especially in the matters of public policy, are absolutely immune from civil lawsuits," according to former Morris County prosecutor Robert Bianchi, of the Bianchi Law Group, told New Jersey 101.5, citing the Fitzgerald vs. Nixon case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bianchi said that the court did not want presidents, judges and prosecutors to make decisions based on the fear that they could be sued over every controversial decision they make.
He expects Trump's lawyers will file a motion to dismiss, which will be successful.
"Presidents have to make extraordinarily complex decisions, often robbing Peter to pay Paul or balancing the interests of multiple different facets, not just New Jersey. You can imagine you'd be sued anytime someone was offended," Bianchi said.
A president can still be sued over non-policy actions and face criminal investigations. A lawsuit by Paula Jones over improper sexual behavior against Bill Clinton in 1998 was permitted to go forward because it involved conduct prior to him being in office.
"There's a bright line from when he or she is sworn in as president of the United States to the time they leave office. When they are making decisions about matters of public policy they're absolutely immune," Bianchi said.
Thomas' lawsuit is clearly about Trump's decisions about the pandemic.
"You may not like it, he may have handled it improperly, but he's going to receive — in my opinion — absolute immunity," Bianchi said.
Bianchi said there are ways to hold a public official accountable.
"We can hope and pray we that we pick people with the integrity, the skill and the intelligence to make the best decision," Bianchi said.