Document Type


Publication Date



Inevitably, the events of the day dominate the political agenda. The issues of presidential succession have been attended to in our national history only sporadically because, at most times, the question of who succeeds the President in cases of death, resignation, or incapacity does not have immediate relevance: the President is in good health, the presumption is he will serve out the term of his office for which he was elected, and political leaders ignore succession issues as if they were of only theoretical interest. And yet, again and again, succession questions have become of the most immediate consequence in times of crisis. Strikingly, of the forty-four men who have served as President of the United States, nine were Vice Presidents who succeeded to the office. Eight of those Vice Presidents took office as a result of the death of the President, and one took office after the resignation of a President. Perhaps equally significant, with remarkable frequency Presidents have confronted disabilities that impeded their ability to serve as President. Indeed, since the adoption of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment in 1967, Presidents have already invoked its disability provision on three occasions. Given the terrible frequency with which Presidents fail to complete their terms of office and the frequency with which they are disabled, any ambiguities concerning presidential succession and any flaws in the rules governing succession have the capacity to lead to national disaster.

In view of the profound importance of questions of presidential succession and the lack of attention paid to them, this issue of the Fordham Law Review is, very simply, a great public service. It presents the papers produced by The Adequacy of the Presidential Succession System in the 21st Century Symposium, which was held at Fordham Law School on April 16 and April 17, 2010. The Symposium took place just one week after the horrific plane crash that killed the President of Poland and a number of the top political and military leaders in Poland, an event that starkly showed the necessity of having a comprehensive system of presidential succession in place in the event of an unexpected tragedy. Sitting in the audience during the Symposium and listening to the papers presented there, the author was struck by how many gaps there are in our current system and what dangers those gaps pose.

Publication Citation

79 Fordham L. Rev. 775-779 (2010)