This matter comes before the Court on defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Compensation or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment and plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Granting Declaratory Relief. After careful consideration, the Court concludes: (1) That defendant's motion for summary judgment on the issue of compensation should be denied, (2) that plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment should be granted and (3) that defendant's motion for partial summary judgment should be granted.
The Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 ("PRMPA"), note following 44 U.S.C.A. § 2111, which became effective on December 19, 1974, directed the Administrator of General Services (as of April 1, 1985, the Archivist of the United States) to retain custody and control of the Presidential historical materials of Richard M. Nixon. Former President Richard M. Nixon filed this action under the PRMPA, § 105(a) alleging that these materials belonged to him personally, and he seeks compensation under the Fifth Amendment for their alleged "taking" by the United States.
In 1991, this Court granted the defendant's (hereinafter also referred to as "the government") motion for summary judgment, concluding that the materials that were the subject of the PRMPA were not Mr. Nixon's private property, and that even if they were, they were not "taken" from him within the meaning of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Mr. Nixon appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that on the basis of history, custom, and usage, Mr. Nixon owned the materials at the time the PRMPA became effective, and that the PRMPA constituted a per se taking of his personal property. Nixon v. United States, 298 U.S. App. D.C. 249, 978 F.2d 1269 (1992). Of additional significance, the Court of Appeals concluded that Mr. Nixon had a "compensable property interest in his presidential papers,"
298 U.S. App. D.C. at 250, 978 F.2d at 1270, noting that "history, custom, and usage indicated unequivocally that, prior to the PRMPA, Presidents exercised complete dominion and control over their papers."
298 U.S. App. D.C. at 257, 978 F.2d at 1277. Notwithstanding that decision, the Court of Appeals recognized that "difficult questions regarding the measure of damages remain." 298 U.S. App. D.C. at 267, 978 F.2d at 1287
Accordingly, the Court of Appeals remanded, leaving all questions of compensation "to [be addressed] in the first instance" by this Court. Id.
On remand, the government asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiffs are not entitled to any compensation for the taking of Mr. Nixon's presidential materials. This position is grounded in two theories.
First, the government asserts that the Emoluments Clause, Article II, Section 1, Clause 7 of the Constitution, prohibits a President from receiving any "emolument" from the United States beyond the compensation fixed by Congress before he or she took office. The Framers of the Constitution forbade the President from receiving any emolument other than a fixed compensation, in part because they feared the consequences of allowing a President to convert his or her office into a vehicle for personal profit. Thus, according to the government, the salary and benefits provided to Mr. Nixon by the United States during his presidency were the only economic benefits the United States could have provided him in consequence of his holding the Office of benefits the United States could have provided him in consequence of his holding the Office of President. The government reasons that because these materials are the physical representation of Mr. Nixon's exercise of powers and duties of the Office of President given to him by the United States, plaintiffs are not entitled to any compensation by virtue of the Emoluments Clause.
Second, the government contends that even if the Emoluments Clause does not bar an award of compensation by the United States to Mr. Nixon for his presidential materials, such an award would result in manifest unfairness to the public and, therefore, would not be "just" within the meaning of the Just Compensation Clause. The Supreme Court has recognized that the Just Compensation Clause does not require the United States to compensate a plaintiff for elements of value that derive directly from special public privileges granted by the government. Here, the government contends that a payment to plaintiffs would be unjust because the value of Mr. Nixon's presidential materials derives solely from his status as President.
In the alternative, the government contends that even if the Court concludes that plaintiffs may be compensated for some of the materials, partial summary judgment should be granted with respect to materials which are excluded from the definition of "Presidential historical materials" in the Act's implementing regulations, or which had no fair market value at the time the Act became effective.
In contrast, plaintiffs contend that the presidential materials produced through Mr. Nixon's exercise of the powers and duties given to him by the United States had an economic value. Thus, they argue, it is this value for which they now should be compensated.
A. Emoluments Clause
The government asserts that the Emoluments Clause to the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 7, precludes the payment of compensation to Mr. Nixon for his presidential materials. The Emoluments Clause provides:
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.