Supreme Court, Congress, State Court?

Or would there be no ruling?

  • 6
    Does this answer your question? Can a United States President issue a self-pardon? Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 22:19
  • 3
    That doesn't really answer the procedural question about how the validity of such a pardon would be tested, if one were ever issued. It suggests SCOTUS would decide, but seems to envision some sort of declaratory judgement, which SCOTUS does not do. Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 22:40
  • 2
    I've voted to reopen this question. "Who decides whether X can happen?" is not the same question as "can X happen?"
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


If a President issued a self-pardon, and later was charged with an offense covered by the pardon, the former President would presumably assert the pardon as a defense. At that point the court would have to rule on the validity of the self-pardon.

Since Presidential pardons only cover Federal crimes, this would presumably occur in a US Federal District Court. Such a decision could then be appealed to a Circuit Court of Appeals, and from there to the US Supreme Court, which might or might not hear the appeal. So the decision would be made at some level of the US Federal court system, by a US Judge or Judges or the Justices of the Supreme Court. This being a previously undecided question, it is not unlikely that the Court would choose to hear such a case.

But no such ruling would occur unless Federal charges were brought for an act nominally within the hypothetical self-pardon, and the pardon was raised as a defense.

  • On the other hand, at that point the act of pardoning himself would become a pretty clear abuse of office, for which he could be prosecuted. Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 9:43
  • @Shadur I am not aware of a law making "abuse of office" a crime, but there might well be such a law. Exactly what it prohibits, if ther is such a law, would matter. Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 15:36

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