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Taking from the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Lessons in Ensuring Presidential Continuity

85 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2011  

Joel K. Goldstein

Saint Louis University - School of Law

Date Written: April 8, 2011


Although some have criticized the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution for leaving gaps in America’s provisions for addressing presidential succession and inability, such complaints are misguided. The Amendment represented a major step forward by providing sensible and workable procedures to remedy some of the most glaring problems the nation faced. Its architects recognized the remaining gaps but realized that advancing a more comprehensive measure would preclude any progress. Nonetheless, remaining gaps present an unacceptable risk that the United States will find itself without a functioning President whose exercise of presidential powers and duties is seen as legitimate. What is unconscionable is the failure of Congress to address those gaps since the ratification of the Twenty-fifth amendment in 1967, particularly since the intervening years have drawn attention to the remaining problems. This article argues that the Amendment, in addition to its specific procedures, offers two other virtues which may usefully guide further reform efforts. The Amendment represents important constitutional values which should influence the search for solutions to remaining problems. Moreover, the Amendment was the product of successful legislative strategies in an area that generally proves resistant to such measures. This article identifies the constitutional values and legislative lessons implicit in the Amendment and suggests how they might inform future reform efforts to better ensure presidential continuity.

Suggested Citation

Goldstein, Joel K., Taking from the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Lessons in Ensuring Presidential Continuity (April 8, 2011). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 79, p. 959, 2010; Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-36. Available at SSRN:

Joel K. Goldstein (Contact Author)

Saint Louis University - School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States

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