The Case Against Lame Duck Impeachment
In The Case Against Lameduck Impeachment, Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman argues that the bill of impeachment against President Clinton, passed in December 1998, expired on January 3rd, 1999, when a new House of Representatives began its term in office. It is unconstitutional for the Senate to begin a trial unless a majority of the newly elected House once again charges the President with "high crimes and misdemeanors."
The newly elected House of 1999 contains 40 new members and five more Democrats, suggesting that a new House vote could produce a different outcome on one or both of the lameduck articles of impeachment. Given this fact, the Chief Justice has a constitutional responsibility to dismiss the lameduck bill of impeachment and call a halt to the Senate trial unless and until the newly elected House votes a new bill of impeachment.
Professor Ackerman supports this conclusion with an analysis of all applicable precedents, ranging from early English history through the Founding period through the enactment of the 20th amendment to the Constitution in 1933. He shows that the Framers of the 20th amendment made a systematic effort to control the abuse of lameduck authority, and that they would have been appalled by the House's recent rush to impeach a sitting president.
About Bruce Ackerman
BRUCE ACKERMAN is one of America's leading political philosophers and constitutional lawyers. He was recented called to tesitify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Impeachment hearings. His most important works are Social Justice in the Liberal State (1980) and We the People (vol. 1, 1991; vol. 2, 1998). He has also written many books on concrete problems ranging from housing policy to environmental law to international relations.
At the same time, he tries to serve the public interest as a lawyer in selected cases. Most recently, he was lead counsel with Lloyd Cutler in a lawsuit,brought on behalf of David Skaggs and other Representatives, that challenged the constitutionality of new House Rules requiring a supermajority vote for income tax increases.
Mr. Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has also been awarded Fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation,the Ford Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, and the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.