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SJR 34 - Return Impeachment trials to the Senate

Missouri is the only state with a bicameral legislature that doesn't have a legislative check on the Judiciary. That's because the responsibility to hold impeachment trials was shifted from Senate to the Courts in the state Constitution in 1945.

SJR 34, sponsored by Senator Ed Emery, restores the Missouri Constitution's impeachment clause back to the way it was before 1945 in which the House of Representatives issues Articles of Impeachment and the Senate holds the impeachment trial.

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Resources For Missouri Impeachment

Did you know...
...that Missouri is the only state that doesn't have legislative check on their judiciary? (Besides Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature.)

Download Impeachment Primer Here (Lists each state's impeachment law.)

MO Const. Article VII, Section 11: “Before taking office, all civil and military officers in this state shall take and subscribe an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States and of this state, and to demean themselves faithfully in office.”


MO Const. Article III, Section 15
"Every senator or representative elect, before entering upon the duties of his office, shall take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: I d
o solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and faithfully perform the duties of my office, and that I will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law."

 

References:

Missouri Constitution search

Missouri Constitution

Missouri Revised Statutes Search

Missouri Revised Statutes

Barton Book - Impeachment

Order “Restraining Judicial Activism” by David Barton From Wall Builders (It's about 60 pages and only $6.95) This is an excellent, easy to read book that uses a lot of quotes from the founding fathers to explain the importance of “separation of powers” and the role impeachment has played in maintaining that separation.

 

General History of Impeachment

This is a great source of impeachment clauses from the U.S. Constitution and quotes from the Federalist Papers as well founding era state constitutions: The Founders' Constitution

 

 

Learn About Impeachment Here

What is impeachment?
Why is it important?
Who can impeach a judge in Missouri?
Why does the power to impeach rest with the house of representatives alone?
What happens once articles of impeachment have been approved by the house?
What are the possible penalties if found guilty?
For what reasons can a judge be impeached?

What is impeachment?

Impeachment is the constitutional process used by the legislature to ensure that the other two branches of government do not overstep their authority.

Impeachment is the first of two steps used to remove an official who has subverted his office in some way. Being impeached is not being found guilty; it is not really even a trial, but only an effort to determine if a trial is called for, similar to a grand jury indictment. (More on the trial later.)

Why is it important?

First, understand that government derives it's power from the governed. The structure of American government is designed to make sure the people maintain ultimate control. Missouri government, like the federal government, is divided into three branches – the administrative, legislative, and judicial. Each branch is limited by the constitution to specific tasks, and each branch serves as a “check and balance” to the other two branches in order to ensure that no branch usurps the liberty of the citizens.

Simply put, impeachment is the constitutional “weapon” the legislature uses to protect the liberty of the citizens and maintain it's own share of power among the three branches.

Who can impeach a judge in Missouri?

Missouri Constitution Article VII Section 2.The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment.”

In addition to impeachment, the Missouri constitution provides for disciplining judges by the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges (Article V, Section 24). The commission's purpose is to maintain the integrity of the courts, but not to maintain the balance of power among the three branches of government, so it is not the proper venue to deal with a judge who usurps the power of the legislature.

Why does the power to impeach rest with the house of representatives alone?

The legislature's power is divided among a much larger number of individuals, so the likelihood of despotic rule from that branch is relatively small – it is the body that is closest to the people. On the other hand, the power of the administrative and judicial branches resides with but a few men who are less accessible to the common man.

Our representatives, like judges, have sworn to defend and uphold the constitution. Impeachment is a solemn responsibility neither to be shirked nor abused.

What happens once articles of impeachment have been approved by the house?

In Missouri, after the resolution passes the house, a trial ensues in one of two venues: 1) If a lower court judge is impeached, his trial is held before the state Supreme Court; 2) When the governor or a Supreme Court justice is impeached, the state senate selects a commission of seven jurists to hear the trial. The defendant can only be found guilty upon the concurrence of five sevenths of ether the court or commission. (MO Constitution, Article VII, Section 2)

A judge is disqualified from acting as a judicial officer while articles of impeachment are being considered, but still receives his salary. (MO Constitution, Article V, Section 24.4)

What are the possible penalties if found guilty?

Missouri Constitution, Article VII, Section 3:Judgment of impeachment shall not extend beyond removal from office, but shall not prevent punishment of such officer by the courts on charges growing out of the same matter.”

James Wilson, an original justice of the U.S. Supreme court and signer of both the Declaration of independence and the U.S. Constitution said, “impeachments are confined to political characters, to political crimes and misdemeanors, and to political punishments.”

Impeachment is neither a criminal procedure nor intended primarily for criminal offenses, so penalties are limited to removal from office.

Judges removed from office also lose certain retirement benefits. (RSMo 476.480) (RSMo 476.560) (Entire Chapter 476)

For what reasons can a judge be impeached?

Missouri Constitution, Article VII, Section 1: “All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.”

A court decision which is clearly in opposition to the plain meaning of the constitution made in favor of personal opinion or in deference to political allies is “corruption in office”. A decision like that is in violation of the judge's oath to defend the constitution and strikes at the seminal principles of “separation of powers”.

If a the judge's motives are not malicious, but he simply misunderstands the clear dictates of the constitution, then he is guilty of “incompetency”.

 

 


Missouri Impeachment History Summary

  1. 1825 Circuit Judge Richard S. Thomas, Jackson, MO
    Accused of bribery in order to secure a clerk position for his son.
    Removed

  2. 1843 Judge John Leland, 2nd Judicial Circuit
    Accused of deficiency in legal knowledge, negligence, tardiness, inattentiveness
    Outcome unknown

  3. 1859 Circuit Judge Albert Jackson, Butler County
    Accused of oppression in office, (28 articles)
    Acquitted

  4. 1867 Circuit Judge Walter King, Platte County
    Accused of finding no bills of indictment against Confederate soldiers, refusing to give or take the loyalty oath required by the constitution, etc.
    Removed

  5. 1867 Circuit Judge James C Moody, St. Louis Circuit
    Accused of uttering false erroneous, and dangerous decisions and opinions, subversive of the valid and binding provisions of the constitution, and for intentionally neglecting to require loyalty oaths by jurors.
    Removed

  1. 1872 Circuit Judge Philander Lucus, Platte County
    Charged with “allowing indictments to create costs” by granting mileage allowances to jurors.
    Charge dropped

  2. 1931 State Treasurer Larry Brunk
    Accused of mishandling state money
    Aquitted

    (Note: The 1945 constitution transferred impeachment trials from the senate to the Supreme Court, except when a SC judge or Governor is impeached.)

  3. 1962 Circuit Judge Virgil A Poelker, St. Louis County
    Accused of mishandling money
    Resigned before trial

  4. 1968 Circuit Judge John D. Hasler, St. Louis County
    Accused of personal involvement with a woman seeking a divorce in his court and improperly advising her.
    Resigned before trial

  5. 1994 Secretary of State Judith Moriarty
    Accused of back dating her son's filing for an election
    Removed


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