Suppose for some reason not directly related to his presidency (e.g. for breach of a contract we signed before he was president) I sue the current POTUS in a federal court. If I win the lawsuit, and the court orders the President to pay me $100,000, can he pardon himself?

  • There is more intricate example. Berlusconi was the prime minister of Italy when he was condemned for cooking the books of his company. He changed the law with retroactive effect to define false accounting as an administrative misdemeanour punishable only with a fine.
    – FluidCode
    Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 21:30
  • @FluidCode ex post facto laws are legal in Italy?
    – Someone
    Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 21:34
  • Shouldn't be, but in this case I don't know exactly how he managed to get away with it.
    – FluidCode
    Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 21:37
  • As noted in the answer, the President can't pardon anybody from a lawsuit. A separate question is whether the President can pardon himself at all (in the case of criminal charges). This is unresolved as it has never been attempted. If you were following the news around January of 2021, you'd have heard a lot of commentary on this point. Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


No. The Pardon Clause only extends the power to pardon "offenses against the United States," which essentially means that the president can only issue a pardon in a federal criminal case.

A contract claim is civil rather than criminal, and governed by state law rather than federal, so the Pardon Clause would not affect the president's liability.

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