The Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act, or Westfall Act, amended the Federal Tort Claims Act to extend absolute immunity from personal tort liability to “any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment.”
Until recently, no federal court had squarely addressed whether the U.S. president is an employee of the government for purposes of the Westfall Act. This question of statutory interpretation controlled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s recent split decision in Carroll v. Trump.
The majority opinion in Carroll answered the question affirmatively, while the dissent disagreed. Remarkably, both opinions purported to apply the same tools of statutory interpretation to reach these disparate conclusions.