Most people understand that there is a procedure for removing a sitting president. The requirements for engaging in this process – impeachment – are outlined in Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution:
“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.”
The definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is more complex than some would like to believe.
The Farlex free legal dictionary explains “high crimes and misdemeanors” thusly:
“[T]he Framers intended for removal from office to be the final step in a two-part process that began in the House of Representatives and, if charges should result, ended in a trial-like hearing before the US Senate. Thus, two goals would be achieved: a full public inquiry into allegations, and, if necessary, the adjudication of those charges requiring a two-thirds majority for removal...
“The generally accepted viewpoint...defines high crimes and misdemeanors as any serious abuse of power – including both legal and illegal activities. Supporters of this [definition] believe that because impeachment is a public inquiry, first and fore-most, it is appropriate to read the phrase broadly in order to provide the most thorough inquiry possible. Thus, a civil officer may face impeachment for misconduct, violations of oath of office, serious incompetence, or, in the case of judges, activities that undermine public confidence or damage the integrity of the judiciary.”
So, per the US Constitution, any “civil officer” was – and is – subject to impeachment. That means Attorney General Eric Holder is just as vulnerable to impeachment as President Obama, although this avenue is seldom traveled by politicians more devoted to the ballot box than their constituencies. Go figure.
But with regard to the Judicial Branch, there is an additional caveat. In Article III, Section 1, it states:
“The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour...” (Emphasis mine)
Constitutional scholar Johnathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University, writes at The Heritage Foundation:
“...both the language and the weight of historical evidence indicate that the Good Behavior Clause was intended to refer to life tenure rather than to a distinct standard for removal. However, just as the Good Behavior Clause reminds the other branches that the judiciary is truly independent, it also reminds judges that life tenure is not a license for the wanton or the corrupt. It is in this sense both a shield and a sword – an affirmation of judicial independence and a reservation for judicial removal.”
When one considers the inclusion of individuals of the Judicial Branch in Article II, Section 4 and the added notation in Article III, Section 1, it would appear that the Founders and Framers understood that the judiciary – tasked with sitting in judgment of We the People, should be held to a higher standard that sought to exclude the poisons of politics and faction, while re-enforcing the importance to adherence to the rule of law.
I mention all of this because of something that Judge Richard Kopf, a federal judge seated out of Nebraska, said in reaction to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:
“Five male justices of the Supreme Court, who are all members of the Catholic faith and who each were appointed by a president who hailed from the Republican party, decided that a huge corporation, with thousands of employees and gargantuan revenues, was a ‘person’ entitled to assert a religious objection to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because that corporation was ‘closely held’ by family members...
“To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse...
“Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent — this term and several past terms has proven that the court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the court has the power to avoid,...As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.”
The acronym “STFU” stands for “shut the f*ck up.”
By constitutional definition, the federal court that Judge Kopf sits on is an “inferior” court to the United States Supreme Court. To that end, Judge Kopf’s opinion is moot to the opinions of the Supreme Court justices when issued in a ruling. Therefore, Judge Kopf’s public statements – his public disparagement of his superiors’ ruling – is no less than a usurpation of authority and (some could argue) a purposeful insurrection against his superiors in the American judicial system. Additionally, for many, his directive that the members of a superior court should “shut the f*ck up,” satisfies the definition of insubordination.
It is well past time that Congress hold to account the many members of the Judicial Branch for not only “treason, bribery, or other high Crimes and misdemeanors,” as they did with the impeachment from the federal bench of US Rep. Alcee Hastings, but transgressions of the mandated “good behavior” required of all of those – at every level – of the Judicial Branch.
Then again, for that matter, one has to wonder why Eric Holder hasn’t been brought up on impeachment charges for dereliction of duty and violating his oath of office. But when I look at the political reprobates on both sides of the aisle in Congress I understand why...