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Impeachment of Federal Judges

Appointment of Federal Judges

Under the United States Constitution, the President of the United States, with the approval of the United States Senate, appoints federal judges. Federal judges are appointed for life but can be removed from office by impeachment.

Impeachment Process

Federal judges can only be removed by impeachment for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The United States House of Representatives has responsibility for bringing charges against a federal judge, and the United States Senate votes to convict or acquit the judge. The Senate must vote to convict by a two-thirds majority before a federal judge can be removed from office.

Early Supreme Court Justice was Impeached

In 1805, the House of Representatives impeached one of the early justices of the United States Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Chase was charged with various acts of misconduct in the performance of his judicial duties. He was tried by the Senate but was acquitted. The case set a legal precedent that a judge’s judicial acts could not serve as the basis for impeachment.

Some Advocate Impeaching Federal Judges Who Allegedly Engage in Improper Judicial Activism

Some citizens, and even members of Congress, are advocating impeachment of federal judges for what they see as judicial overreaching in the decisions being handed down by certain judges. Traditionally, judges have only been removed from office through impeachment for criminal acts. However, some conservatives argue that it should be possible to impeach a judge for an abuse of power, such as entering and enforcing orders beyond his/her authority. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to determine the proper grounds for judicial impeachment. Some are weighing the feasibility of a constitutional amendment that would place term limits on federal judicial appointments.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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