Removing a Supreme Court Justice

How can a Supreme Court justice be removed? Impeachment? By whom? Who would preside at a trial??

The last time it was tried, FDR wanted to get rid of some intransigent right-wingers on the Court and replace them with judges of his own choosing. He was not successful. Short answer: Not the President.

Federal judges, including those of the Supreme Court, are subject to impeachment via the same process as the president and other executive officers. Articles of impeachment are voted on by the House of Representatives. If passed, then the Senate holds an impeachment trial. If there is a 2/3 vote in the Senate, then the judge may be removed from office.

Huh? Judge Walter Nixon was impeached and removed in 1989.

Also, Judge Thomas Porteous was impeached and removed way back in 2010.

There’s always the Judge Crater method.

This sounds like something the OP should look up in their textbook.

The OP asked about the Supreme Court Justices.

FDR’s “court-packing” plan did not involve getting rid of any sitting judges and replacing them, but rather adding additional judges who might be more sympathetic to his policies.

Hmm. There seem to have been some major developments with regard to the Supreme Court which I somehow have missed.:wink:

Krokodil is right, however, regarding the fact that the President doesn’t play a role in removal of federal judges.

The President of the Senate. So the Vice-President of the US could preside in person if he so chose in practice it would be the President pro term (ie the most senior senator from the majority party). The only time the Chief Justice presides is when it’s the President of the US that’s on trial. Oddly the same is not true if it’s the VP on trial, which means in theory a VP could insist on presiding over his own trial. Somebody sure dropped the ball in 1788.

Let’s note these were District Court Judges. AFAIK only one Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached (partly for political reasons , and acquitted by the Senate) – Samuel Chase, back in 1803-04.

The last time it was tried was in 1970, when Gerald Ford, then House Minority Leader, tried to impeach Justice Douglas. Nothing came of it, though, and he stopped the impeachment attempts when it became obvious he wouldn’t win.

Relevant comments from Cecil: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2693/there-goes-the-judge

Correct. Chase’s story is worth a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Chase#Impeachment

Vice-President Aaron Burr presided over the impeachment trial of Justice Chase.

Just for the sake of completeness here:

  • A few SCOTUS justices have “died on the bench” (AFAIK never literally), i.e., continued to hold their seat on the court up until death.

  • A few justices have resigned under the threat of impeachment, usually for financial or other irregularities. Abe Fortas is the most recent example which comes to mind.

  • A few justices have resigned to take other important governmental posts. Jimmie Byrnes, named Secretary of State at the end of WWII, is the good recent example.

  • Most justices retire, often due to infirmity or chronic illness. One of the most potent weapons in the armory of government is the fact that Justices hold office for life, not changeable with every political wind that blows but rendering decisions in accordance with the Constitution as interpreted according to their own judicial philosophy. The downside of this is a senile or infirm justice’s ability to cling to his seat – and the tool used against this is the influence of the other eight Justices in encouraging him or her to retire, sometimes (as with Justice Douglas) to the point of arranging majorities “around” him, without his participation. Congress also has “sweetened the pot” by granting pensions to particular justices who may not have vested in the retirement plan, as additional inducement to get them to retire.

Impeachment is a “nuclear option”, used only once and failing of conviction even then. Generally justices are shown the door in a much more discreet manner and with their own sometimes grudging cooperation.

Right, but that was over 200 years ago, modern VPs seldom preside over the Senate except on ceremonial occasions or to break a tie. IIRC none of the most recent impeachment trials of judges have had a sitting VP presiding.