Q&A of the Day – Has anyone impeached in the House been convicted in the Senate?
Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.
Today’s entry: Has anyone actually been removed or banned from office through impeachment? Nixon resigned, Clinton’s impeachment failed. They failed the first time with Trump and will again even though he’s not in office now. It seems like impeachment is always just used for political purposes.
Bottom Line: You’re certainly right about impeachment always being a political process used for political purposes. It quite literally is. Unlike the legal process litigated through the judicial branch, there are no punitive penalties that can be imposed through the impeachment process. There can only be political, or remedial, consequences of an impeachment in the House met with a conviction in the Senate. Specially, a conviction is limited to the removal of an official from office along with disqualification from holding public office in the future. Related, because the penalties aren’t civil, even a President of the United States can’t pardon an official who is impeached and convicted by the Senate. As for your question regarding Senate convictions... The answer is yes. There are eight officials to have been convicted of impeachment and three who’ve been banned from office. This includes two south Florida connections. Those cases involved:
- 1803 – Judge John Pickering: Convicted & removed
- 1862 – Judge West Hughes Humphreys: Convicted, removed & disqualified
- 1912 – Judge Robert Wodrow Archbald: Convicted, removed & disqualified
- 1936 - Judge Halsted Ritter (Southern District of Florida): Convicted & removed
- 1986 - Judge Harry Claiborne: Convicted & removed
- 1988 – Judge Alcee Hastings (Southern District of Florida): Convicted & removed
- 1989 – Judge Walter Nixon: Convicted & removed
- 2010 – Judge Thomas Porteous: Convicted, removed & disqualified
You might have noticed a trend. All successful convictions involved judges. There’s never been a partisan elected official convicted in the Senate. Also of note, a quarter of those convicted by the Senate were judges in the Southern District of Florida’s court system. In 1936 Judge Ritter was convicted of tax evasion. You may recall that Alcee Hastings was convicted of bribery and perjury. It’s also notable that Democrats, who controlled the Senate during the Hastings trial, opted not to disqualify him from future office – only to remove him as a judge. Had they, he of course never could have run for Congress. It remains remarkable that someone convicted of bribery and perjury, while a judge no less, has been a member of Congress since 1993. Alcee’s story, which includes the irony of his having voted to impeach President Trump twice, is the ultimate reminder of this process being a political one.
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