Impeaching A Supreme (Not Diana Ross, A Justice)

Article 3, Section 1 of the Constitution -

Article 2, Section 4, OOTH -

AIUI “high crimes and misdemeanors” means more or less whatever Congress decides it wants.

There has been of late a certain amount of discussion about impeaching one of the Justices on the Supreme Court. My question is, does “during good behavior” have a more specific meaning than “high crimes and misdemeanors”?

[ul][li]During good behavior. Does this mean the bad behavior to be considered for impeachment has to have occurred while on the Court? I assume this is not limited to official behavior - if Ginsberg is caught dealing crack out the back window of the Supreme Court building, she could be impeached for that even though she was not doing so as part of her role as Justice. But what if it were shown that she was dealing crack before she became a Justice? Could she be impeached for that? [/ul][/li][ul][li]What exactly is good behavior, especially as contrasted to bad behavior? Is this like HCaM which can mean anything Congress wants, ranging from sexually harassing the statue of Justice in the front hallway to peeing on the Washington Monument? Is it specifically illegal behavior? [/ul][/li]Don’t need answer fast, IANAL, all models are over 18, void where taxed or prohibited, do not read this thread if you are allergic to it or any of its ingredients, consult your doctor if you experience a thread lasting more than four hours. May contain peanuts.


The most recent attempt to impeach a Supreme Court Justice was Abe Fortas in the LBJ administration:

The case that definitively established that impeachment is beyond any judicial review was about a federal judge. So, impeachment of a judge can be for whatever Congress wishes, simply because there’s nowhere else that can take up the dispute.

But I think there’s another issue that gets debate, which is whether the “good behavior” provision allows for alternatives to impeachment for judges. That is, could there be some other process that establishes that a judge has not engaged in good behavior and terminates his or her service.

Here is an argument along the lines I mentioned.

Interesting article. Thanks.

Actually it was against William O. Douglas during the Nixon administration.
The article directly addresses the OP’s question.

Let’s get down to Brass Tacks.

How many Senators does it take to vote to actually REMOVE a Justice from the Supreme Court? (You can “Impeach” until the cows come home. It means nothing!)

Number of times a Supreme Court Justice has been removed from the bench during the entire history of the USA. (ZERO)

How many Democratic Senators are there right now?

Best case scenario, how many Democratic Senators will there be after 2018 midterms?

How many Republican Senators will join Democratic Senators and vote to remove Kavanuagh?

So what are the odds Justice Kavanuagh will actually be removed from the Supreme Court?

“Elections have consequences” Barack Obama


The OP didn’t ask anything about whether it was politically realistic, and he in no way specified that he was talking about Kavanaugh. While the political realities, and Kavanaugh’s situation, are interesting topics for discussion, those topics belong in Great Debates or possibly Elections, not in GQ.

Does a Supreme Court judge have to be a member of the bar? What if the law society revoked his bar accreditation?

The only requirements for Supreme Court justice are appointment by the president and confirmation by the Senate.

Lower courts have more stringent requirements laid out in the establishing statutes somewhere.

A reasonable reading might be that a sitting justice can only be impeached for offenses committed while he is a sitting justice. Anything he did before that should be dealt with during the confirmation hearings.

What if a Justice is found to have committed a crime before he was confirmed but only convicted of it after he was in office?

Does “found to” mean convicted of it, or just really credibly accused of it? If you’ve got enough credible evidence to go to, say, the Montgomery County Police today–30-odd years after the fact–and they can get a conviction, then yes, I think he’d be kicked off the bench. But as we have seen in the past few weeks, there are significant hurdles to this happening. Short of a clear conviction, no, he should not be impeached based on anything less.

I think the grey area is, can he be impeached for lying about it during the confirmation process?