executive order

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An executive order is defined as a declaration by the president or a governor which has the force of law, usually based on existing statutory powers. Executive orders do not require any action by the Congress or state legislature to take effect, and the legislature cannot overturn it. For example, in anticipation of the Gulf War, President George H. Bush signed Executive Order 12724, which prohibited transactions with Iraq and summarily transferred ownership of Iraqi government property in the United States to the United States government. The executive order was issued pursuant to Congressional statutes, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.

Recent presidential executive orders, memoranda, and proclamations are available here. Virtually all presidential executive orders are published in the Federal Register.  


Presidential actions and statements from the current administration:

  • Executive orders
  • Memoranda
  • Proclamations
  • Statements of policy

Illustrative Cases:

See City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, (9th Cir. 2018) and New York Citizens Utility Board, Inc. v. Pataki, 231 A.D.2d 185, 659 N.Y.S.2d 933 (N.Y. App. Div. 1997)

[Last updated in March of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]