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The Constitutional Politics of Presidential Succession

80 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2010 Last revised: 16 Sep 2017

Richard Albert

Boston College - Law School; Yale University - Law School; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law

Date Written: August 25, 2011


The current line of presidential succession is no safer than playing presidential roulette. It imprudently privileges politics and tradition over competence and leadership. We should rethink the rules that currently govern succession to the Presidency – legal and constitutional rules that, in my view, serve the wrong institutional and political interests. The task I have given myself in these pages is to propose and defend an alternative to the current presidential succession regime: revising the order of succession to insert former living presidents – in reverse chronological order of service beginning with former presidents of the same party as the unavailable president – into the line of succession and concurrently removing the House Speaker and the Senate President pro tempore from the line of succession. Temporary presidential succession is a promising alternative to the current succession regime for several reasons that I endeavor to justify. Yet even if readers disagree with my proposed alternative to the current line of presidential succession, the larger purpose of my project nevertheless remains achievable: to probe the values that currently shape presidential succession and to invite reflection about whether they are the right ones for our time.

Keywords: Presidential Succession, Presidency, Vice Presidency, Constitution, Constitutional Law, Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tempore, Cabinet

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, The Constitutional Politics of Presidential Succession (August 25, 2011). 39 Hofstra Law Review 497 (2011); Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 242. Available at SSRN:

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

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Boston, MA 02459-1163
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Yale University - Law School ( email )

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New Haven, CT 06520-8215
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Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

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University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5


Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150

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