This shouldn’t even have to be a question. Yes, they could, but it would be very difficult from both a legal and a political perspective.? Yet the question arises, as under the radar a bill is floating around Congress which could be the groundwork for the removal of the two most hated Conservative Justices?sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Despite being appointed for life, Article II, Section I, of the U.S. Constitution, provides that:
The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour.
A Supreme Court Justice can and has been impeached, although the only Justice to ever be impeached, Samuel Chase,?was acquitted after trial on a Bill of Impeachment in 1805. There have been fourteen impeachments?of Judges sitting on lower Federal Courts. Eight were found guilty, then removed from the bench, with three others resigning before the completion of their trials in the Senate.
The standard for impeachment of a sitting Supreme Court Justice, or any sitting Judge or elected federal official of the United States, is found in Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution:
Conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes?and misdemeanors.
Even if a Bill of Impeachment were to come out of the House of Representatives, proving conduct on the part of a sitting Supreme Court Justice amounting to an impeachable offense would be a very difficult hurdle to clear.
Sadly, their is no Code of Judicial Conduct that applies to the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.? In fact, it was not until 1924, when the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, adopted a Code of Judicial Conduct.?This Code of Judicial Conduct does not apply to the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.
While Congress does have Constitutional authority to regulate the lower Courts, there is no Congressional Power to regulate the Supreme Court.? The Supreme Court is self regulating and it has, over the years, agreed to be bound in principal to the ethical standards applicable to the lower Courts.
The Judicial Standards of Conduct which the Supreme Court agreed to follow by internal resolution in 1991, provide for the reporting of outside gifts and income as well as recusal, otherwise known as removing yourself, from cases in which the Justice has a direct personal interest or when the appearance of bias would be too great so as to undermine the public trust in that Justices participation in a particular case.
Unfortunately, the decision to remove yourself from a case is left to the individual Justices with no avenue for appeal, as the Supreme Court is the highest Court in the land.? The decision to remove yourself from a case, is left up to the individual Justice.? Justice Elena Kagan?has recused herself numerous times due to her involvement in case on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Liberals and Progressives have complained about the conduct by Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been widely reported to have attended numerous conferences by far right wing groups as a speaker and non paying guest.? A case could be made that the gifts, even without the receipt of speaking fees, is improper and tantamount to the receipt of payment?from groups who have an interest in cases that were about to be heard by the Supreme Court.? Many believed that Justice Scalia should never have sat on cases like Citizens United.
Justice Clarence Thomas, for years, failed to report hundreds of thousand of dollars in income received by his wife, Virginia Thomas, for her work on behalf of the Heritage Foundation?and from the Teabully group, Liberty Central.
A case could be made that Justice Thomas committed a felony by failing to report his wife’s income on six consecutive financial disclosure statements. Many believe that he should not have participated in the recent 2011 Supreme Court Affordable Healthcare Act case.
The bill that is now being offered by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, and Sheldon Whitehouse, to establish a Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court, is laudable.? But the effort will fail.
In this political environment, this Bill will never see a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.? Legally, the U.S. Constitution would more than likely first have to be amended, providing Congress the authority to regulate the U.S. Supreme Court, in order to enact law establishing this Code of Conduct. We could not even dream about Bills to Impeach Justices Scalia and Thomas coming from this particular House of Representatives.
So it is left to us the voters and to father time to do what we can to to change the nature of the U.S. Supreme Court as presently constituted. ? In 2014, Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg will be 81 years of age in March, Justice Scalia will be 78 years in March, and Justice Thomas will turn 66 in June.? Keeping the Presidency and the Senate in the hands of Democrats is essential.? Our freedom, our votes, our livelihoods are at stake.
2014 and beyond.? Another reason why it really matters.
Edited/Published by: SB