Judicial Review of Impeachments
It was long assumed that no judicial review of the impeachment process was possible, that impeachment presents a true "political question" case, i.e., that the Constitution's conferral on the Senate of the "sole" power to try impeachments is a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of trial procedures to the Senate to decide without court review. That assumption was not contested until very recently, when Judges Nixon and Hastings challenged their Senate convictions.
In the Judge Nixon case, the Court held that a claim to judicial review of an issue arising in an impeachment trial in the Senate presents a nonjusticiable "political question."Specifically, the Court rejected a claim that the Senate had departed from the meaning of the word "try" in the impeachment clause by relying on a special committee to take evidence, including testimony. But the Court's "political question" analysis has broader application, and appears to place the whole impeachment process off limits to judicial review.
Impeachment is the subject of several other provisions of the Constitution. Article I, § 2, cl. 5, gives to the House of Representatives "the sole power of impeachment." Article I, § 3, cl. 6, gives to the Senate "the sole power to try all impeachments," requires that Senators be under oath or affirmation when sitting for that purpose, stipulates that the Chief Justice of the United States is to preside when the President of the United States is tried, and provides for conviction on the vote of two-thirds of the members present. Article I, § 3, cl. 7, limits the judgment after impeachment to removal from office and disqualification from future federal office holding, but it allows criminal trial following conviction upon impeachment. Article II, § 2, cl. 1, deprives the President of the power to grant pardons or reprieves in cases of impeachment. Article III,§ 2, cl. 3, excepts impeachment cases from the jury trial requirement.
Although the word "impeachment" is sometimes used to refer to the process by which any member of the House may "impeach" an officer of the United States under a question of constitutional privilege (see 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES §§ 2398 (impeachment of President John Tyler by a member) and 2469 (impeachment of Judge John Swayne by a member) (1907), the word as used in Article II, § 4 refers to impeachment by vote of the House, the consequence of which is that the Senate may then try the impeached officer.
1 W. HOLDSWORTH, HISTORY OF ENGLISH COURTS 379-85 (7th ed. 1956); Clarke, The Origin of Impeachment, in OXFORD ESSAYS IN MEDIEVAL HISTORY, PRESENTED TO HERBERT EDWARD SALTER 164 (1934); Alex Simpson, Jr., Federal Impeachments, 64 U. PA. L. REV. 651 (1916).
Alex Simpson, Jr., Federal Impeachments, 64 U. PA. L. REV.at 653-67 (1916).
1 ANNALS OF CONG. 457, 473, 536 (1789).
Id. at 375, 480, 496-97, 562.
Id. at 372.
The term "civil officers of the United States" is not defined in the Constitution, although there may be a parallel with "officers of the United States" under the Appointments Clause, Art. II, § 2, cl. 2, and it may be assumed that not all executive branch employees are "officers." For precedents relating to the definition, see 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES §§ 1785, 2022, 2486, 2493, and 2515 (1907). See also Ronald D. Rotunda, An Essay on the Constitutional Parameters of Federal Impeachment, 76 KY. L. REV. 707, 715-18 (1988).
See the following section on Judges.
3 W. Willoughby, supra at 1448.
This point was established by a vote of the Senate holding a plea to this effect good in the impeachment trial of Senator William Blount in 1797. 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES §§ 2294-2318 (1907); F. WHARTON, STATE TRIALS OF THE UNITED STATES DURING THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS 200- 321 (1849); BUCKNER F. MELTON, JR., THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT: THE CONSTITUTION'S FRAMERS AND THE CASE OF SENATOR WILLIAM BLOUNT (1998).
See NATIONAL COMM'N ON JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE & REMOVAL, REPORT OF THE NATIONAL COMM'N ON JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE & REMOVAL 9-11 (1993). The Commission was charged by Congress with investigating and studying problems and issues relating to discipline and removal of federal judges, to evaluate the advisability of developing alternatives to impeachment, and to report to the three Government Branches. Pub. L. 101-650, 104 Stat. 5124. The report and the research papers produced for it contain a wealth of information on the subject.
For practically the entire Convention, the plans presented and adopted provided that the Supreme Court was to try impeachments. 1 M. Farrand, supra at 22, 244, 223-24, 231; 2 id. at 186. On August 27, it was successfully moved that the provision in the draft of the Committee on Detail giving the Supreme Court jurisdiction of trials of impeachment be postponed, id. at 430, 431, which was one of the issues committed to the Committee of Eleven. Id. at 481. That Committee reported the provision giving the Senate power to try all impeachments, id. at 497, which the Convention thereafter approved. Id. at 551. It may be assumed that so long as trial was in the Supreme Court, the Framers did not intend that the Justices, at least, were to be subject to the process.
The Committee of Five on August 20 was directed to report "a mode for trying the supreme Judges in cases of impeachment," id. at 337, and it returned a provision making Supreme Court Justices triable by the Senate on impeachment by the House. Id. at 367. Consideration of this report was postponed. On August 27, it was proposed that all federal judges should be removable by the executive upon the application of both houses of Congress, but the motion was rejected. Id. at 428-29. The matter was not resolved by the report of the Committee on Style, which left in the "good behavior" tenure but contained nothing about removal. Id. at 575. Therefore, unless judges were included in the term "civil officers," which had been added without comment on September 8 to the impeachment clause, id. at 552, they were not made removable.
The following judges faced impeachment trials in the Senate: John Pickering, District Judge, 1803 (convicted), 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES §§ 2319-2341 (1907); Justice Samuel Chase, 1804 (acquitted), id. at §§ 2342-2363; James H. Peck, District Judge, 1830 (acquitted), id. at 2364-2384; West H. Humphreys, District Judge, 1862 (convicted), id. at §§ 2385-2397; Charles Swayne, District Judge, 1904 (acquitted), id. at §§ 2469-2485; Robert W. Archbald, Judge of Commerce Court, 1912 (convicted), 6 CANNON'S PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES §§ 498-512 (1936); Harold Louderback, District Judge, 1932 (acquitted), id. at §§ 513-524; Halsted L. Ritter, District Judge, 1936 (convicted), Proceedings of the United States Senate in the Trial of Impeachment of Halsted L. Ritter, S. Doc. No. 200, 74th Congress, 2d Sess. (1936); Harry Claiborne, District Judge, 1986 (convicted), Proceedings of the United States Senate in the Impeachment Trial of Harry E. Clai-borne, S. Doc. 99-48, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. (1986); Alcee Hastings, District Judge, 1989 (convicted), Proceedings of the United States Senate in the Impeachment Trial of Alcee L. Hastings, S. Doc. 101-18, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. (1989); Walter Nixon, District Judge, 1989 (convicted), Proceedings of the United States Senate in the Impeachment Trial of Walter L. Nixon, Jr., S. Doc. 101-22, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. (1989). In addition, impeachment proceedings against district judge George W. English were dismissed in 1926 following his resignation six days prior to the scheduled start of his Senate trial. 68 CONG. REC. 344, 348 (1926). See also ten Broek, Partisan Politics and Federal Judgeship Impeachments Since 1903, 23 MINN. L. REV. 185, 194- 96 (1939). The others who have faced impeachment trials in the Senate are Senator William Blount (acquitted); Secretary of War William Belknap (acquitted); President Andrew Johnson (acquitted); and President William J. Clinton (acquitted). For summary and discussion of the earlier cases, see CONSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS OF WATERGATE: DOCUMENTS AND MATERIALS (A. Boyan ed., 1976); and Paul S. Fenton, The Scope of the Impeachment Power, 65 NW. U. L. REV. 719 (1970) (appendix), reprinted in Staff of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., Impeachment: Selected Materials 1818 (Comm. Print. 1998).
It has been argued that the impeachment clause of Article II is a limitation on the power of Congress to remove judges and that Article III is a limitation on the executive power of removal, but that it is open to Congress to define "good behavior" and establish a mechanism by which judges may be judicially removed. Shartel, Federal Judges-Appointment, Supervision, and Removal- Some Possibilities Under the Constitution, 28 MICH. L. REV. 485, 723, 870 (1930). Proposals to this effect were considered in Congress in the 1930s and 1940s and revived in the late 1960s, stimulating much controversy in scholarly circles. E.g., Kramer & Barron, The Constitutionality of Removal and Mandatory Retirement Procedures for the Federal Judiciary: The Meaning of "During Good Behavior," 35 GEO. WASH. L. REV. 455 (1967); Ziskind, Judicial Tenure in the American Constitution: English and American Precedents, 1969 SUP. CT. REV. 135; Berger, Impeachment of Judges and "Good Behavior" Tenure, 79 YALE L. J. 1475 (1970). Congress did in the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, P. L. 96-458, 94 Stat. 2035, 28 U. S.C. § 1 note, 331, 332, 372, 604, provide for disciplinary powers over federal judges, but it specifically denied any removal power. The National Commission, supra at 17-26, found impeachment to be the exclusive means of removal and recommended against adoption of an alternative. Congress repealed 28 U.S.C. § 372 in the Judicial Improvements Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-273 and created a new chapter (28 U.S.C. §§ 351-64) dealing with judicial discipline short of removal for Article III judges, and authorizing discipline including removal for magistrate judges. The issue was obliquely before the Court as a result of a judicial conference action disciplining a district judge, but it was not reached, Chandler v. Judicial Council, 382 U.S. 1003 (1966); 398 U.S. 74 (1970), except by Justices Black and Douglas in dissent, who argued that impeachment was the exclusive power.
See discussion supra of the differences between English and American impeachment.
3 DESCHLER'S PRECEDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ch. 14, § 13.9.
See MICHAEL J. GERHARDT, THE FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: A CONSTITUTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS 77-79 (2d ed. 2000).
The Senate imposed disqualification twice, on Judges Humphreys and Archbald. In the Humphreys trial the Senate determined that the issues of removal and disqualification are divisible, 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES § 2397 (1907), and in the Archbald trial the Senate imposed judgment of disqualification by vote of 39 to 35. 6 CANNON'S PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES § 512 (1936). During the 1936 trial of Judge Ritter, a parliamentary inquiry as to whether a two-thirds vote or a simple majority vote is required for disqualification was answered by reference to the simple majority vote in the Archbald trial. 3 DESCHLER'S PRECEDENTS ch. 14, §13.10. The Senate then rejected disqualification of Judge Ritter by vote of 76-0. 80 CONG. REC. 5607 (1936).
1 M. Farrand, supra.
2 M. Farrand at 172, 186.
Id. at 499.
Id. at 550.
1 T. HOWELL, STATE TRIALS AND PROCEEDINGS FOR HIGH TREASON AND OTHER CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS FROM THE EARLIEST PERIOD TO THE PRESENT TIMES 90, 91 (1809); A. SIMPSON, TREATISE ON FEDERAL IMPEACHMENTS 86 (1916).
Article III, § 3.
The use of a technical term known in the common law would require resort to the common law for its meaning, United States v. Palmer, 16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 610 , 630 (1818) (per Chief Justice Marshall); United States v. Jones, 26 Fed. Cas. 653, 655 (No. 15,494) (C.C.Pa. 1813) (per Justice Washington), leaving aside the issue of the cognizability of common law crimes in federal courts. See Act of April 30, 1790, § 21, 1 Stat. 117.
Berger, Impeachment for "High Crimes and Misdemeanors", 44 S. CAL. L. REV. 395, 400-415 (1971).
The extradition provision reported by the Committee on Detail had provided for the delivering up of persons charged with "Treason, Felony or high Misdemeanors." 2 M. Farrand, supra at 174. But the phrase "high Misdemeanors" was replaced with "other crimes" "in order to comprehend all proper cases: it being doubtful whether 'high misdemeanor' had not a technical meaning too limited." Id. at 443.
See id. at 64-69, 550-51.
E.g., 3 J. ELLIOT, DEBATES IN THE SEVERAL STATE CONVENTIONS ON ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION 341, 498, 500, 528 (1836) (Madison); 4 id. at 276, 281 (C. C. Pinckney: Rutledge): 3 id. at 516 (Corbin): 4 id. at 263 (Pendleton). Cf. THE FEDERALIST, No. 65 (J. Cooke ed. 1961), 439-45 (Hamilton).
1 ANNALS OF CONG. 372-73 (1789).
4 J. Elliot, supra at 126 (Iredell); 2 id. at 478 (Wilson). For a good account of the debate at the Constitutional Convention and in the ratifying conventions, see Alex Simpson, Jr., Federal Impeachments, 64 U. PA. L. REV. 651, 676-95 (1916)
See generally CHARLES L. BLACK, IMPEACHMENT: A HANDBOOK (1974); RAOUL BERGER, IMPEACHMENT: THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROBLEMS (1973); MICHAEL J. GERHARDT, THE FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: A CONSTITUTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS (2d ed. 2000); PETER CHARLES HOFFER AND N.E.H. HULL, IMPEACHMENT IN AMERICA, 1635- 1805 (1984); JOHN R. LABOVITZ, PRESIDENTIAL IMPEACHMENT (1978); 3 DESCHLER'S PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, ch. 14, § 3 "Grounds for Impeachments," H.R. Doc. No. 661, 94th Cong. 2d Sess. (1977); Charles Doyle, Impeachment Grounds: A Collection of Selected Materials, CRS Report for Congress 98-882A (1998); and Elizabeth B. Bazan, Impeachment: An Overview of Constitutional Provisions, Procedure, and Practice, CRS Report for Congress 98-186A (1998).
1 J. Q. ADAMS, MEMOIRS 322 (1874). See also 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES§§ 2356-2362 (1907).
3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS at § 2361.
The full record is TRIAL OF SAMUEL CHASE, AN ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (S. Smith & T. Lloyd eds., 1805). For analysis of the trial and acquittal, see Lillich, The Chase Impeachment, 4 AMER. J. LEGAL HIST. 49 (1960); and WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST, GRAND INQUESTS: THE HISTORIC IMPEACHMENTS OF JUSTICE SAMUEL CHASE AND PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON (1992). The proceedings against Presidents Tyler and Johnson and the investigation of Justice Douglas are also generally viewed as precedents that restrict the use of impeachment as a political weapon.
Some have argued that the constitutional requirement of "good behavior" and "high crimes and misdemeanors" conjoin to allow the removal of judges who have engaged in non-criminal conduct inconsistent with their responsibilities, or that the standard of "good behavior"-not that of "high crimes and misdemeanors"-should govern impeachment of judges. See 3 DESCHLER'S PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, ch. 14, §§ 3.10 and 3.13, H.R. Doc. No. 661, 94th Cong. 2d Sess. (1977) (summarizing arguments made during the impeachment investigation of Justice William O. Douglas in 1970). For a critique of these views, see Paul S. Fenton, The Scope of the Impeachment Power, 65 NW. U. L. REV.719 (1970), reprinted in Staff of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., Impeachment: Selected Materials 1801-03 (Comm. Print. 1998).
See 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES §§ 2319- 2341 (1907)
Ten Broek, Partisan Politics and Federal Judgeship Impeachments Since 1903, 23 MINN. L. REV. 185 (1939). Judge Ritter was acquitted on six of the seven articles brought against him, but convicted on a seventh charge that summarized the first six articles and charged that the consequence of that conduct was "to bring his court into scandal and disrepute, to the prejudice of said court and public confidence in the Federal judiciary, and to render him unfit to continue to serve as such judge." This seventh charge was challenged unsuccessfully on a point of order, but was ruled to be a separate charge of "general misbehavior."
Warren S. Grimes, Hundred-Ton-Gun Control: Preserving Impeachment as the Exclusive Removal Mechanism for Federal Judges, 38 UCLA L. REV. 1209, 1229-1233 (1991).
See, e.g., Frank O. Bowman, III and Stephen L. Sepinuck, "High Crimes and Misdemeanors": Defining the Constitutional Limits on Presidential Impeachment, 72 S. CAL. L. REV. 1517, 1534-38 (1999). Congressional practice may reflect this view. Judges Ritter and Claiborne were convicted on charges of income tax evasion, while the House Judiciary Committee voted not to press such charges against President Nixon. So too, the convictions of Judges Hastings and Nixon on perjury charges may be contrasted with President Clinton's acquittal on a perjury charge.
Act of March 2, 1867, ch. 154, 14 Stat. 430.
1 TRIAL OF ANDREW JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ON IMPEACHMENT 88, 147 (1868).
Id. at 409.
For an account of the Johnson proceedings, see WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST, GRAND INQUESTS: THE HISTORIC IMPEACHMENTS OF JUSTICE SAMUEL CHASE AND PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON (1992).
The only occasion before the Johnson impeachment when impeachment of a President had come to a House vote was the House's rejection in 1843 of an impeachment resolution against President John Tyler. The resolution, which listed nine separate counts and which was proposed by a member rather than by a committee, was defeated by vote of 127 to 84. See 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES § 2398 (1907); CONG. GLOBE, 27th Cong. 3d Sess. 144-46 (1843).
The President's resignation did not necessarily require dismissal of the impeachment charges. Judgment upon conviction can include disqualification as well as removal. Art. I, § 3, cl. 7. Precedent from the 1876 impeachment of Secretary of War William Belknap, who had resigned prior to his impeachment by the House, suggests that impeachment can proceed even after a resignation. See 3 HINDS' PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, § 2445 (1907). The Belknap precedent may be somewhat weakened, however, by the fact that his acquittal was based in part on the views of some Senators that impeachment should not be applied to someone no longer in office, id. at § 2467, although the Senate had earlier rejected (by majority vote of 37-29) a resolution disclaiming jurisdiction, and had adopted by vote of 35-22 a resolution affirming that result See id. at § 2007 for an extensive summary of the Senate's consideration of the issue. See also id, § 2317 (it had been conceded during the 1797 proceedings against Senator William Blount, who had been sequestered from his seat in the Senate, that an impeached officer could not escape punishment by resignation).
H.R. Rep. No. 93-1305.
120 CONG. REC. 29361-62 (1974).
Analyses of the issue from different points of view are contained in Impeachment Inquiry Staff, House Judiciary Committee, 93d Cong., Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachments, (Comm. Print 1974); J. St. Clair, et al., Legal Staff of the President, Analysis of the Constitutional Standard for Presidential Impeachment (Washington: 1974); Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice, Legal Aspects of Impeachment: An Overview, and Appendix I (Washington: 1974). And see RAOUL BERGER, IMPEACHMENT: THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROBLEMS (1973), which preceded the instant controversy; and MICHAEL J. GERHARDT, THE FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: A CONSTITUTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS 103-06 (2d ed. 2000).
Indeed, the Committee voted not to recommend impeachment for alleged income tax fraud, an essentially private crime not amounting to an abuse of power.
The question first arose during the grand jury investigation of former Vice President Agnew, during which the United States, through the Solicitor General, argued that the Vice President and all civil officers were not immune from the judicial process and could be indicted prior to removal, but that the President for a number of constitutional and practical reasons was not subject to the ordinary criminal process. Memorandum for the United States, Application of Spiro T. Agnew, Civil No. 73-965 (D.Md., filed October 5, 1973). Courts have held that a federal judge was indictable and could be convicted prior to removal from office. United States v. Clai-borne, 727 F.2d 842, 847-848 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 829 (1984); United States v. Hastings, 681 F.2d 706, 710-711 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1203 (1983); United States v. Isaacs, 493 F.2d 1124 (7th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Kerner v. United States, 417 U.S. 976 (1974).
The grand jury had named the President as an unindicted coconspirator in the case of United States v. Mitchell, et al., No. 74-110 (D.D.C.), apparently in the belief that he was not actually indictable while in office. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the President's claim that the grand jury acted outside its authority, but finding that resolution of the issue was unnecessary to decision of the executive privilege claim it dismissed as improvidently granted the President's petition for certiorari. United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 , 687 n.2 (1974).
Approved by a vote of 228-206. 144 CONG. REC. H12,040 (daily ed. Dec. 19, 1998).
Approved by a vote of 221-212. 144 CONG. REC. H12,041 (daily ed. Dec. 19, 1998).
An article charging the President with perjury in the civil sexual harassment suit brought against him was defeated by a vote of 229-205; another article charging him with abuse of office by false responses to the House Judiciary Committee's written request for factual admissions was defeated by vote of 285-148. 144 CONG. REC. H12,042 (daily ed. Dec. 19, 1998).
The vote for acquittal was 55-45 on the grand jury perjury charge, and 50- 50 on the obstruction of justice charge. 145 CONG. REC. S1458-59 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999).
For analysis and different perspectives on the Clinton impeachment, see Background and History of Impeachment: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., 2d Sess. (1998); and Staff of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., Impeachment: Selected Materials (Comm. Print 1998). See also MICHAEL J. GERHARDT, THE FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: A CONSTITUTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS (2d ed. 2000); RICHARD A. POSNER, AN AFFAIR OF STATE: THE INVESTIGATION, IMPEACHMENT, AND TRIAL OF PRESIDENT CLINTON (1999); LAURENCE H. TRIBE, 1 AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW 181-202 (3d ed. 2000); and Michael Stokes Paulsen, Impeachment (Update), 3 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION 1340-43 (2d ed. 2000). Much of the documentation can be found in Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, H.R. Rep. No. 105-380 (1998); Staff of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., 2d Sess., Impeachment Inquiry: William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States; Consideration of Articles of Impeachment (Comm. Print 1998); and Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton: The Evidentiary Record Pursuant to S. Res. 16, S. Doc. No. 106-3 (1999) (21-volume set).
Following the trial, a number of Senators placed statements in the record explaining their votes. See 145 CONG. REC. S1462-1637 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999).
Note that the Judiciary Committee deleted from the article a charge based on President Clinton's allegedly frivolous assertions of executive privilege in response to subpoenas from the Office of Independent Counsel. Similarly, the Committee in 1974 distinguished between President Nixon's refusal to respond to congressional subpoenas and his refusal to respond to those of the special prosecutor; only the refusal to provide information to the impeachment inquiry was cited as an impeachable abuse of power.
The requirement was contained in the Ethics in Government Act, since lapsed, and codified at 28 U.S.C. § 595(c). For commentary, see Ken Gormley, Impeachment and the Independent Counsel: A Dysfunctional Union, 51 STAN. L. REV. 309 (1999).
For analysis of the issue, see Jack Maskell, Censure of the President by Congress, CRS Report for Congress 98-843A (1998).
According to one scholar, the three articles of impeachment against President Nixon epitomized the "paradigm" for presidential impeachment- abuse of power in which there is "not only serious injury to the constitutional order but also a nexus between the misconduct of an impeachable official and the official's formal duties." Michael J. Gerhardt, The Lessons of Impeachment History, 67 GEO. WASH. L. REV. 603, 617 (1999).
Although committing perjury in a judicial proceeding-regardless of purpose or subject matter-impedes the proper functioning of the judiciary both by frustrating the search for truth and by breeding disrespect for courts, and consequently may be viewed as an (impeachable) "offense against the state" (see 145 CONG. REC. S1556 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999) (statement of Sen. Thompson)), such perjury arguably constitutes an abuse of power only if the purpose or subject matter of theperjury relates to official duties or to aggrandizement of power. Note that one of the charges against President Clinton recommended by the House Judiciary Committee but rejected by the full House-providing false responses to the Committee's interrogatories- was squarely premised on an abuse of power.
The House vote can be viewed as rejecting the views of a number of law professors, presented in a letter to the Speaker entered into the Congressional Record, arguing that high crimes and misdemeanors must involve "grossly derelict exercise of official power." 144 CONG. REC. H9649 (daily ed. Oct. 6, 1998).
Some Senators who explained their acquittal votes rejected the idea that the particular crimes that President Clinton was alleged to have committed amounted to impeachable offenses (see, e.g., 145 CONG. REC. S1560 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999) (statement of Sen. Moynihan); id. at 1601 (statement of Sen. Lieberman)), some alleged failure of proof (see, e.g., id. at 1539 (statement of Sen. Specter); id. at 1581 (statement of Sen. Akaka)), and some cited both grounds (see., e.g., id. at S1578-91 (statement of Sen. Leahy), and id. at S1627 (statement of Sen. Hollings)).
See, e.g., 145 CONG. REC. S1525 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999) (statement of Sen. Cleland) (accepting the proposition that murder and other crimes would qualify for impeachment and removal, but contending that "the current case does not reach the necessary high standard"); id. at S1533 (statement of Sen. Kyl) (impeachment cannot be limited to wrongful official conduct, but must include murder); and id. at S1592 (statement of Sen. Leahy) (acknowledging that "heinous" crimes such as murder would warrant removal). This idea, incidentally, was not new; one Senator in the First Congress apparently assumed that impeachment would be the first recourse if a President were to commit a murder. IX DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE FIRST FEDERAL CONGRESS, 1789-179, THE DIARY OF WILLIAM MACLAY AND OTHER NOTES ON SENATE DEBATES 168 (Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit eds. 1988).
One commentator, analogizing to the impeachment and conviction of Judge Claiborne for income tax evasion, viewed the basic issue in the Clinton case as whether his alleged misconduct was so outrageous as to "effectively rob[ ] him of the requisite moral authority to continue to function as President." Gerhardt, supra n.817, at 619. Under this view, the Claiborne conviction established that income tax evasion by a judge, although unrelated to official duties, reveals the judge as lacking the unquestioned integrity and moral authority necessary to preside over criminal trials, especially those involving tax evasion.
Senator Thompson propounded this theory in arguing that "abuse of power" is too narrow a category to encompass all forms of subversion of government that should be grounds for removal. 145 CONG. REC. S1556 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999).
Both judges challenged the use under Rule XI of a trial committee to hear the evidence and report to the full Senate, which would then carry out the trial.
The rule was adopted in the aftermath of an embarrassingly sparse attendance at the trial of Judge Louderback in 1935. National Comm. Report, supra at 50- 53, 54-57; Grimes, supra at 1233-37. In the Nixon case, the lower courts held the issue to be non-justiciable (Nixon v. United States, 744 F. Supp. 9 (D.D.C. 1990), aff'd 938 F.2d 239 (D.C. Cir. 1991), but a year later a district court initially ruled in Judge Hastings' favor. Hastings v. United States, 802 F. Supp. 490 (D.D.C. 1992), vacated 988 F.2d 1280 (D.C. Cir. 1993).
Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993). Nixon at the time of his conviction and removal from office was a federal district judge in Mississippi.
The Court listed "reasons why the Judiciary, and the Supreme Court in particular, were not chosen to have any role in impeachments," and elsewhere agreed with the appeals court that "opening the door of judicial review to the procedures used by the Senate in trying impeachments would expose the political life of the country to months, or perhaps years, of chaos." 506 U.S. at 234, 236.