Impeachment is based upon “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust … as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” —Alexander Hamilton
Can Kavanaugh Be Impeached For Statements To Congress?
Members of Congress, as well as a former congressional staffer, complain of lying, concealment and receipt of stolen information on the part of a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge — misconduct which is alleged to have occurred both when he was a nominee for his current office, and since he has become a nominee for associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Is this member of the judicial branch potentially subject to impeachment — and if so,on what basis? The short answer: Yes, a sitting member of the federal judiciary is subject to impeachment for demonstrably harmful misconduct… Read More
A non-partisan guide to a precise understanding of the rules and history of impeachment . . .
Spotlighting in particular the precise rules of impeachment—including an explanation of the crucial grounds for impeachment, the famous “high crimes and misdemeanors”—the book also details its origins in British law, the rules as set out by the founding fathers in the Constitution, and their application throughout the history of our democracy.
All of which makes A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment a fascinating read about a unique aspect of our democracy, as well as a useful, one-of-a-kind guide for citizens in a participatory government. This week in impeachment blog.
About The Author
Practicing on both sides of the docket, Barbara Ann Radnofsky has, since 1991, been in “Best Lawyers in America” and is listed in multiple areas, including alternate dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration, medical malpractice, personal injury, and health care law. An attorney since 1979, she is a mother of three, wife, teacher, and mediator.
After her 2006 retirement from Vinson & Elkins at age 49, she became the first woman in history to serve as the Texas Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.
Barbara Ann was the first woman at Vinson & Elkins to have children as an associate and attain partnership. Barbara Ann has served as lead counsel in jury trials involving commercial disputes, medical malpractice, tax, contractual indemnity, false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, premises liability, insurance defense matters, pedestrian and auto accidents, Section 1983 Civil Rights disputes, worker’s compensation matters, and products liability.
She argued successfully before the Fifth Circuit on pro bono prisoner’s rights and torts matters; conducted appeals there, and in Texas state appellate courts; represented clients in Congressional hearings and administrative tribunals. In 1999, Barbara Ann successfully petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission to prohibit defective barbecue lighters with estimated annual savings of millions of dollars and hundreds of lives.
Proceeds donated to HURRICANE HARVEY RELIEF
Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund which is housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity. Funds will be distributed to various non-profit organizations. Donate at ghcf.org/hurricane-relief.
What Is Impeachment?
In the U.S., impeachment is a constitutional process by which Congress can remove high officials, including the president, the vice president, federal judges, and Cabinet members, from office.
The Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War had a clear sense of the dangers of – and how to combat – a tyrannical, badly functioning, negligent, or incapacitated official in power. They foresaw U.S. civil officers as human beings prone to the same harmful tendencies and disabilities as the British king and his minions.
The remarkably well-educated American victors thoughtfully adapted British law to suit the needs of the new United States. They’d debated, reworked, and polished language to forge a constitution containing what we know as the “Impeachment Clause.” The new American statesmen wanted a noncriminal, orderly process – not “tumults and insurrections” – to deal with the “misconduct of public men,” as they focused on injuries done to “society itself.” Related constitutional clauses that describe the process give Congress (the legislative branch of government) sole power to impeach and remove a badly performing high official.
The U.S. impeachment process can result in the removal – but not the criminal punishment – of a U.S. public official who would cause substantial harm: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” U.S. Const. Art. II, Sec. 4.
The special phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is lifted directly from ancient British impeachment law and forms the cornerstone of the U.S. impeachment process. It is a term (legally, a “term of art”) that bears no resemblance to what we know as “crimes” or “misdemeanors” today. It requires no charging of a crime, no intent to do a wrong, and no lawbreaking. When presenting a case for impeachment, Congress may charge civil officers as acting with intent, treachery, criminal misconduct, and law-breaking, but the Constitution requires no proof of such – none -in order to impeach.
The United States Congress has impeached and convicted officials regardless of their mental state – even a person conceded as “insane,” in the words of the 19th century, as well as persons capable under the law of forming intent. Congress has also impeached calculating, treasonous, corrupt, swindling, or profiteering officials who could substantially harm us.
While many of these stories involve crooks and swindlers who intentionally betrayed trust, sexually assaulted their employees, bribed, stole, sold out their country to enhance the value of their vast landholdings, violated America’s foreign policies, fomented war, covered up misdeeds, obstructed justice, committed perjury, and tampered with witnesses, the key factor in considering the impeachability of public officials for “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is the harm they can cause; it’s not the motive or intent of the official. The greater the potential for harm, the greater the case for impeachment and removal.
This book traces American impeachment history from the country’s founding to today, using the 19 cases of U.S. impeachment of judges, a cabinet member, a senator, and presidents, plus other important examples of impeachment activity that did not reach the stage of formal House impeachment. But behind the history of the Impeachment Clause in the United States lie centuries of British law and legal practice related to impeachment, which greatly influenced the Founding Fathers’ thinking as they created our system of government laid out in the Constitution. Our foundational documents, including the Constitution and its phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” are interpreted by looking to the thinking – that is, the intent – of the Founding Fathers and framers of our country’s foundational documents.
So, while it’s important to understand that harm to society is the significant element emerging in the history of U.S. impeachment cases, it’s equally important to know what the Founding Fathers’ intentions were as they debated, crafted, and finalized the Constitution’s impeachment clause. The Constitution was written and adopted at a national convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and then became effective in 1788 as a result of votes in state ratifying conventions. The Founding Fathers recorded for posterity their intent to adapt the British law of impeachment, as they displayed-in articles, books, argument, and advocacy at Constitutional Convention debates and then on the floor of Congress – a sophisticated understanding of British history, law, and terminology adapted for use in American impeachment proceedings.
Radnofsky is an attorney and author of “A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment.”