The recent presidential election raised a host of questions concerning the scope of executive power. After Donald Trump won the election, students at the University of Washington School of Law asked for an opportunity to learn more about presidential power. When Kathryn Watts and Sanne Knudsen, UW School of Law professors, announced a new law school course on presidential power this winter quarter, the course filled within a day of it being announced.  

But the interest wasn't restricted to law students; faculty and students from other UW departments, alumni and community members were also eager to learn about the law of presidential power. While not everyone could be admitted to the class, UW Law decided to reach beyond our classrooms and serve as a resource to everyone interested in this topic.

Presidential Power in 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
7:30 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle, The Great Hall

Presidential transitions raise a host of important questions. Among them, how much power does a president have? In what ways can an incoming - or outgoing - president exercise that power? And how, if at all, can individuals participate in the political process once the election is over? The University of Washington School of Law invites members of the public to join a panel of scholars to discuss the scope, and limits, of presidential power in modern politics. Topics include how President Trump plans to exercise power in his own administration and how members of the public can remain engaged, beyond the ballot box, in the political process.


Robert (Bob) Anderson, Environmental Law and Natural Resource Law
Angélica Cházaro, Immigration Law
Trevor Gardner, Criminal Law
Sallie Thieme Sanford, Health Care Law
Kathryn Watts, Administrative Law and Presidential Power


Lisa Manheim, Election Law

Library Guide

The Presidential Power guide opens up the Presidential Power and Its Limits course readings, along with a few additional resources that will be useful to people studying the topic.

Presidential Power and Its Limits course description:

This course, co-taught by Professors Watts and Knudsen, will provide an overview of presidential power and its limits. An emphasis will be placed on political structures and constitutional and legal principles that define the parameters of the presidency, as well as the regulatory state that operates within the executive branch. To explore how different political and legal structures both empower and limit the executive branch, this course will rely upon a number of current case studies drawn from various substantive areas, including immigration, health care and the environment. The course will draw upon the expertise of other faculty and guest speakers to gain a deeper understanding of how the president can exert important influence in these substantive fields.

There will be no final exam. Instead, students will be given the option of drafting: a regulatory comment in an ongoing rulemaking; a citizen petition for rulemaking; or an amicus brief in a pending case.

In the Media