If a SCOTUS Justice were charged with a crime. . .

So there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of an FBI investigation for Brett Kavanaugh before he is formally appointed to the Supreme Court. But suppose he is sworn in, and the investigation continues? There is no Statue of Limitations on sexual assault in Maryland. So if the FBI found sufficient evidence, the Maryland AG could bring charges.

What is the procedure for removing a SCOTUS Justice who is indicted for, or found guilty of, a crime? Can it be done?

Impeachment just like the president and through the same process. If I remember properly its been done on a supreme court judge before.

He could be impeached and tried. Now what happens if he’s convicted and put in jail and they can’t get a 2/3 vote to in the impeachment trial, I guess the Court goes on with 8 members.

The Constitution does not specify impeachment for judges. But there has to be a very strong case to go after a SCotUS Justice. Some serious questions have been murmered about Thomas, but no one has had the testicular fortitude to pursue them.

I’m no law-talkin’-guy, but the Constitution doesn’t privilege justices from arrest like it does for members of Congress, and a quick Google shows that judicial immunity only seems to apply to civil matters.

Justice Samuel Chase in 1804. He was acquitted and served on the court until his death in 1811.

An additional 14 federal judges have been impeached, eight of whom were convicted by the Senate.

Yeah, there is no executive privilege for judges at the Supreme Court or otherwise. They habe certain implied protection against lawsuits in their official capacity similar to any other federal employee, but no protection, civil or criminal, from actions in their capacity of private citizens. Removal from the Supreme Court requires impeachment or resignation, but convicting a Supreme Court justice of a crime outside of their official capacity doesn’t require removal.


It’s “statute of limitations”. Carry on.

Technically, he is correct that there’s no Statue of Limitations in Maryland either. But then, I’m no art historian, so I could be wrong. :slight_smile:


I knew dat, Mr. Kotter! I knew dat!


Seriously, just a typo, but thanks for setting it straight.

Several of the judges who have been impeached in the last few decades were actually impeached during prison sentences, where they continued to draw salaries until their removal.

The Constitution specifies that impeachment is an option for “all civil Officers of the United States.” That includes judges, including those on the Supreme Court.

The only Supreme Court justice to be impeached is Samuel Chase as mentioned above, and that impeachment failed in the Senate. But lots of lower federal judges have been successfully impeached and convicted; in the 20th century the tradition has been usually to do this after an ordinary criminal conviction or at least some professional sanction for misconduct. The most recent such case is Samuel Kent who was convicted in a sexual assault case and then impeached when he failed to resign in a timely manner. (He ended up resigning before a Senate trial could commence.)

The last federal judge to be removed by conviction in an impeachment trial is Thomas Porteous in 2010. He was impeached for various mundane improprieties including good old-fashioned bribery, perjury, misstating assets during his bankruptcy, and so on. He was not criminally charged but was convicted in the impeachment trial on four counts and disqualified from holding future office.

All of this applies equally to Supreme Court justices; the fact that no SC justices have been impeached in modern times is probably a reflection of the rather extensive vetting that occurs combined with them being rather small in number. Unlike the presidency, there is no constitutional or theoretical bar to criminally indicting and prosecuting any sitting federal judge, including those on the Supreme Court. Aside from the inevitable media circus, the process would proceed in the usual manner, and Congress could impeach and remove the accused Justice at any point, though in practice they would probably wait until after a criminal conviction.

An impeachment is not reviewable by the courts, though it would certainly be interesting if a substantive question of federal law were raised in a criminal trial involving a Supreme Court justice which ended up being heard by the Court while he was still on it. One would expect that he would recuse himself, though there is no mechanism aside from political pressure to enforce that.

We had a bit of discussion about this in the very long elections thread. IIRC, it appears that even if Ford’s allegations were true, Kavanaugh is still protected by what the Maryland statute of limitations was at the time of the alleged assault, or in the years following it.

Chances of him being convicted of the Ford allegations are very slim anyway. Even if there had been a timely report and he had been charged there and then. (

Certainly the cross of Prof Ford in a criminal (or even civil trial) would have been much more robust than yesterdays. Of course Mark Judge would have been dragged kicking and screaming to the witness box so there is that as well.

I have the impression that Mr. Judge is unwilling to lie. Why else would he be running so hard?I think if he got on the stand Judge Kavanaugh would not only be dropped from consideration for SCOTUS, but he’d be looking for a new line of work.

Mr Judge reportedly has struggled with addiction issues. The stress brought on by being thrown into a nationally televised hearing might, in his mind, be a stress he would placate by returning to drinking.

It is speculation on my part that he might return to behaviors that caused him such harm in the past, but many addicts have relapsed in times of stress.

Cite. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pubmed/17915078-the-role-of-stress-in-addiction-relapse/

According to this article:

one of the removed judges has served in Congress since 1993


True, and a very serious consideration. But it is also a core tenet of many treatment approaches that cleaning up the wreckage of the past, and practicing rigorous honesty in the present, are key to maintaining sobriety. I’m interested to see how Mr. Judge will reconcile the various pressures on him right now.

If he remembers the assault, then her testimony can leave him with no question that he owes her amends for his past misdeeds. He also well knows the owes the citizens of the US honesty regarding his friend’s past behavior. As Kavanaugh doubles down and begins to insist that he was an innocent lamb who remained a virgin well into adulthood, Judge’s conscience must be writhing. I’m sure he’s under enormous pressure from his old friends to keep silent.

If he’s serious about his sobriety, he’ll come forward.

He’s already “come forward” - he sent a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In it, he states

He shows no sign of that.

He says he hasn’t seen Kavanaugh for several years, so the pressure must be second-hand.