Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, January 4, 2013

President Obama used autopen to sign fiscal cliff legislation

AutopenIn an unusual move, President Obama used an autopen to sign the fiscal cliff legislation.  Thus, he could technically claim in the future that he never actually signed the legisation.

Below is an excerpt from Dave Boyer, Republicans question Obama’s use of autopen to sign ‘cliff’ bill, The Washington Times, Jan. 3, 2013:

Terry Turnipseed, a law professor at Syracuse University who has written about the legality of the autopen, said it sets a bad precedent.

“I’m very, very surprised that this is now the third time that President Obama has done this, especially given that it was the Bush OLC that produced the memo and Bush himself refused to take advantage of the autopen,” he said. “Even Bush did not think that this was something that should have been utilized on a constitutional basis.”

Mr. Turnipseed said it’s not the use of the autopen that’s unconstitutional per se, but the fact that the president is not in the presence of the device when it’s being used. He said it should only be used in the rare case of a president being incapacitated, similar to the signing of a will by a person who is physically unable to do so.

For more information on autopen signing, see Prof. Turnipseed's articles in Slate here and his law review article here.


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