24 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 76 PART 1 JANUARY 2018
Impeachment also exists at the state level in the United States. Various
states have impeached officials on 28 occasions, the last in 2010: a judge in
The exact meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, which is used in
the U.S. Constitution, has never been decided. The term derives from the
trial of the Earl of Suffolk, Lord Chancellor in the reign of Richard II, who
was accused of embezzlement and negligence. There was some discussion
of the term during the trial of President Clinton; the question arose whether
perjury amounted to a “high crime or misdemeanor”. The question was
If impeachment proceedings tend to be commenced for political reasons,
the vote in the Senate, at least today, will turn upon the political colour of
the senators. So if the current president is to be impeached, the House of
Representatives will have to assemble an iron-clad case of “high crimes and
misdemeanors”, akin to treason, in order to get a two-thirds majority in the
Senate. However, if the president is removed from office the United States
will still have a Republican president, because the current vice-president
will automatically succeed to the presidency. He will then nominate his
vice-president, who will inevitably also be a Republican. That being so,
those Republican senators who would like to be rid of their current president
might be tempted to support a guilty vote, knowing that the country
would still be served by a Republican president.
1. Sir William Searle Holdsworth, A History of English
Law, vol 6 (London: Methuen & Co, 1924) at 260.
2. US Const art I, § 2, cl 5.
3. US Const art II, § 4.
4. US Const art I, § 3, cl 6.
5. US Const art I, § 3, cl 7.