Page images

Mr. Segal and those who share his views rely heavily on existing state procedures similar in principle to those proposed in S. 1506 to alleviate the shortcomings of the federal judiciary. In many instances these procedures are inapposite. In some states, for example, judges are subject to review through the elective process. In others, where the state constitutions contain no impeachment provisions, the states clearly must provide other means for removal. But putting aside these differences for a moment, it is possible that such a system could work. The question is, however, whether Congress should adopt such a program, regardless of the possible constituțional limitations, when the danger of abuse is so great. It is my belief that it should not.

In 1959 Professor Henry Hart of the Harvard Law School devoted forty pages to criticism of the opinions of certain members of the Supreme Court of the United States.33 One of his criticisms of the opinions of the Court was, in general, that they were "threatening to undermine the professional respect of first-rate lawyers for the incumbent Justices of the Court. .” 34 Thurmond Arnold, a former judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals, and himself a first-rate lawyer, responded eloquently to Professor Hart 35 in language that is relevant to the subject here under discussion:

I do not know what "first-rate lawyers” Professor Hart has in mind. But to the public, first-rate lawyers can only mean men with large corporate practices and leaders in the American Bar Association who are now attacking the Court. Therefore, regardless of what Professor Hart is saying to himself, he is saying to the public that the Court must so conduct itself as to regain the admiration of its critics in the American Bar Association and the corporate bar. Has Professor Hart forgotten that Mr. Justice Brandeis was bitterly opposed by those who were considered the first-rate lawyers of that time? Has he forgotten that in the early days of the New Deal the majority of the Court did so conduct themselves as to gain the admiration of the first-rate lawyers of that time and that they did this so steadfastly as almost to wreck the Court? Has he forgotten that the decisions bitterly attacked by "first-rate lawyers” have often proven to be the Court's greatest decisions?

Had I been judging the competence of the members of the Court as Mr. Hart does, I would have chosen Justice Black's eloquent dissent in Barenblatt and Justice Brennan's dissent in Uphaus, Justice Harlan's majority opinion in Cole v. Young, Chief Justice Warren's majority opinion in Watkins, and Justice Frankfurter's courageous dissenting opinion in Rosenberg. I would have concluded that the Justices who joined in these opinions were worthy of sharing with Holmes and Brandeis the honor of making the Court represent at least in part a great symbol of the ideal of civil liberties.

At the time the Barenblatt and Uphaus opinions were written, there was a resolution pending in Congress to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which failed to pass the Senate by only one vote. The Court was under heavy attack from a prominent faction of the American Bar Association, all of whom could be classed as the “firstrate lawyers” who Mr. Hart tells us are losing confidence in the Court. I do not suggest that the majority was motivated by the pending resolution in arriving at their decision. I do suggest that had the dissent prevailed the resolution might have passed. It may well be fortunate that these great dissents did not prevail, so that they may later make a path to be traveled in the future. In any event, from these samples I would have presented a much more hopeful picture than Professor Hart does

and, I suspect, a much more realistic one. 36 I join with the late and distinguished Judge Arnold. Quite correctly, it seems to me, his reply dramatizes the potential impact that a powerful faction might have on the federal judiciary if such a resolution or S. 1506 were passed. The outcome would be precipitous. “The benefits of the integrity and moderation of the judiciary” of which Hamilton spoke in the Federalist Papers 37 might well be supplanted by the temerity and excessiveness which political power and wealth often breed. S. 1506 can only bring great harm to the courageous and independent members of the judiciary who have withstood a wide variety of pressures. In my opinion the passage of the Judicial Reform Act would be the sort of mistake from wihch the judiciary and the Republic could never recover.

33 Hart, Foreward: The Time Chart of the Justices, The Supreme Court, 1958 Term, 73 Harv. L. Rev. 84 (1959).

34 Id. at 101.
35 Arnold, Professor Hart's Theology, 73 Harv. L. Rev. 1298 (1960).
36 Id. at 1315-16 (footnotes omitted).
37 The Federalist No. 78 at 528 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton).

Although I am most disturbed by the potential for abuse which lies dormant in this bill, proponents of the Judicial Reform Act must also convince its critics and, very likely, the Supreme Court, that the bill is constitutional. It is to the constitutional issue and to an examination of the exclusivity of the impeachment clause that I should now like to turn.

II. THE EXCLUSIVITY OF THE IMPEACHMENT POWER "The power of Congress to remove all civil officers by impeachment has always been regarded as an integral part of the system of checks and balances. ...” 38 Ăs noted previously, impeachment is the only method expressly provided in the Constitution for the removal of unfit civil officers, including federal judges. Therefore, it is my belief, and that of many others, 39 that the Constitution provides impeachment as the exclusive procedure for the removal of federal judges. This position is predicated on the language of the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the principle of the independence of the federal judiciary.


A. Removal: The Cases and the Constitution Three sections of the Constitution are relevant to a discussion of removal: (1) Article I, section 2 provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole power of impeachment”; (2) Article I, section 3 invests in the Senate "the sole power to try all impeachments” (emphasis added). Section 3 also requires that “no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present." Article I further provides that “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal of office”; and (3) Article II, section 4 enumerates the grounds for removal:“for conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Those who contend that a statutory alternative to impeachment would be constitutional note that the language of Articles I and II does not expressly provide that impeachment is exclusive. It is difficult for me to come to any other conclusion, however, after a careful reading of the language of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Despite the obvious intent of these documents, the nonexclusivists contend that the exclusivity argument is inconclusive since there are a number of cases which hold that impeachment is not the sole mode for removal of civil officers.

The first case usually cited for this proposition is Parsons v. United States.40 Parsons was the United States Attorney for the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama. Although Parsons' term of office was to end on February 4, 1894, President Cleveland attempted to remove him from office on May 26, 1893. Upon his removal, Parsons sued to recover the salary owed to him from May 26 to December 31, 1893. The question before the Court was whether the President has the power to remove a United States Attorney when removal occurred prior to the end of a four-year appointment. Parsons claimed that the President had no power to remove him directly and that the President and the Senate had no authority to remove him indirectly by appointing his successor.

Mr. Justice Peckham, writing for the majority of the Court, analyzed the constitutional history regarding the President's power of removal. He found that, after long debates in the two Houses of the First Congress, both had voted to allow the President the power to remove the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.41 He noted that in In re Hennen 42 Mr. Justice Thompson had stated:

3. Note, The Exclusiveness of the Impeachment Power Under the Constitution, 51 Harv. L. Rev. 330 (1937). 39 Included among those distinguished jurists who share or have shared this belief are Mr. Justice Story, Lord Bryce, Alexander Hamilton and Professor Hart. See Kramer & Barron, The Constitutionality of Removal and Mandatory Retirement Procedures for the Federal Judiciary: The Meaning of “During Good Behavior," 35 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 455, 459 (1967) (hereinafter cited as Kramer & Barron). Several recent articles deal with the exclusivity of impeachment proceedings. Of these, two deal exclusively with this issue and rely heavily on English precedents and the beliefs of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, as contrasted with my focus on American Court decisions, infra. These articles are Ervin, Separation of Powers: Judicial Independence, 35 Law & Contemp. Prob. 108 (1970) and Shipley, Legislative Control of Jucidial Behavior, 35 Law & Contemp. Prob. 178 (1970). 40 167 U.S. 324 (1897).

No one denied the power of the President and the Senate, jointly, to remove, where the tenure of the office was not fixed by the Constitution; which was a full recognition of the principle that the power of removal was incident to the power of appointment. But it was very early adopted, as the practical construction of the Constitution, that this power was vested in the President alone. And such would appear to have been the

legislative construction of the Constitution.43 Justice Peckham also reviewed a case which involved the removal of a federal judge, United States v. Guthrie.44 In Guthrie, the President had attempted to remove Chief Justice Goodrich of the territory of Minnesota, an Article I judge.15 Judge Goodrich petitioned for a writ of mandamus in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to be issued against the Secretary of the Treasury to compel payment of the former's judicial salary. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that it lacked the power to command the withdrawal of money from the Treasury for the payment of any individual claim and that, therefore, the mandamus should not issue. Thus the question of the President's authority to remove Judge Goodrich was not reached. 46

However, the Attorney General's advisory opinion to the President on the issue of removal prior to the litigation in Guthrie had implicitly recognized limits on removal other than by impeachment. Certain officials, the opinion indicated,

are not exempted from the executive power which, by the constitution, is vested in the President of the United States over all civil officers appointed by him; and whose tenures of office are not made by the constitution itself more stable than during the pleasure of the President

of the United States. 47 The Attorney General concluded that the President had the authority to remove the territorial Chief Justice from office for any cause. During oral argument in Guthrie, however, the Attorney General modified this conception of the President's power of removal. He argued quite persuasively that territorial judges were not Article III judges but rather, Article I judges:

Constitutional courts are such as are intended by the provisions of the third article of the Constitution. The judges of this class, by the express terms of the constitution, hold their offices during good behavior. It comprehends the judges of the Supreme Court and of the various judicial

circuits and districts into which the United States are subdivided.48 Mr. Justice Peckham concluded in Parsons that the President had the power of removal, despite some question concerning construction of the tenure of office statute.49 Therefore the President, in his discretion, was allowed to remove an officer, “although the term of office may have been limited by the words of the statute creating the office.” 50

Parsons may be construed as holding that the President may remove an officer appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. But it seems to me that the facts of that case are simply not susceptible of such broad application. Parsons served with limited tenure and was appointed under the authority of Article II, rather than Article III. In addition, the United States Attorney General involved in Parsons is distinguishable from the current members of the federal judiciary, The latter, as Article III judges, serve during a period of good behavior, a standard prescribed by the Constitution, not a statute. Parsons, therefore, cannot be viewed as being dispositive of the case of an Article III judge.

41 Id. at 328-33.
42 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 230 (1839).
43 167 U.S. at 331, quoting 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) at 259.
44 58 U.S. (17 How.) 284 (1854).

45 For a discussion of other than Article III judges, see H. Hart and H. Wechsler, The Federal Courts and the Federal System 340-51 (1953).

48 58 U.S. (17 How.) at 303.
47 5 Op. Att'y Gen. 288, 290 (1851).
48 58 Ù.S. (17 How.) at 289.
49 The statute in question may be found in 167 U.S. at 343.
50 Id.

In another removal case, Shurtleff v. United States, 51 the petitioner was a customs agent who had been removed from office solely by presidential action. As in Parsons, the petitioner sought to recover pay for the remaining period of his appointment. The duty of writing the Court's opinion again fell to Mr. Justice Peckham and, not surprisingly, he reaffirmed the position of the Court in Parsons. He stated, in part:

It cannot now be doubted that in the absence of constitutional or statutory provision the President can by virtue of his general power of appointment remove an officer, even though appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. ... To take away this power of removal in relation to an inferior office created by statute, although that statute provided for an appointment thereto by the President and confirmation by the Senate, would require very clear and explicit language. It should not be held to be taken away by mere inference or implication. Congress has regarded the office of sufficient importance to make it proper to fill it by an appointment to be made by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It has thereby classed it as appropriately coming under the direct supervision of the President and to be administered by officers appointed by him, (and confirmed by the Senate,) with reference to his constitutional responsibility to see that the laws are faithfully

executed.52 In discerning the intent of the statute, Justice Peckham reasoned that the right of removal exists unless precluded by the presence of explicitly contrary language in the statute. The right, he suggested, exists in the right to appoint rather than in the grant itself, and it requires plain language to take it away.'

" 53 The Justice went on to question whether Congress had intended to limit the right to certain enumerated causes:

If so, see what a difference in the tenure of office is effected as to this office, from that existing generally in this country. The tenure of judicial officers of the United States is provided for by the Constitution, but with that exception no civil officer has ever held office by a life tenure since the foundation of the Government.54 That lone exception is the core of my position. Article III judges are creatures of the Constitution, not the Congress. They are provided with life tenure during good behavior and only the constitutionally authorized court of impeachment may remove them from office. In Shurtleff, Justice Peckham rather inconclusively blurred the distinction between creations of the Constitution and those of the Congress. He concluded that the impeachment requirement was never intended to prevent the removal of a customs agent for causes other than those listed in Article II, section 4 or by the President, if he so desired it. His observations on the removal of a customs agent certainly seem correct. But it is a giant leap from that premise to the conclusion that Article III judges may be removed by a commission established by the Congress operating under its Article I powers.

Another case which considered the limitations of nonimpeachment removal, Myers v. United States, 55 involved the removal of a postmaster four months before the expiration of his four-year term.56 In that case, the Act establishing the position of postmaster was held to be unconstitutional because it made the President's power of removal depend upon the consent of the Senate. The Court found that the appointment of a postmaster was an exercise of the President's executive power, as provided in Article II, section 1; and although the power of appointment was limited by senatorial advice and consent, the Executive's power, the Court held, was not limited or tempered by the legislative branch in the matter of removals.

53 Id. at 316.

51 189 U.S. 311 (1903).

52 Id. at 314-15. The Act which had created Shurtleff's position permitted his removal for inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.

54 Id. (emphasis added). 65 272 U.S. 52 (1926). 5* The administratrix of the postmaster's estate argued that the postmaster could not be removed without the consent of Congress.

In Myers, Mr. Chief Justice Taft, writing for the majority, as well as Justices Brandeis, McReynolds and Holmes all in dissent, carefully reviewed the power of the President to remove executive officers. All the opinions contained dicta concerning the removal of federal judges. Despite disagreement among them on the issue in the principal case, the Justices agreed that even though Congress establishes the number of federal judges, the extent of their jurisdiction and their salary, judges are not to be treated like postmasters or United States attorneys on the issue of removal. The Chief Justice stated:

It has been sought to make an argument, refuting our conclusion as to the President's power of removal of executive officers, by reference to the statutes passed and practice prevailing from 1789 until recent years in respect of the removal of judges, whose tenure is not fixed by Article III of the Constitution, and who are not strictly United States Judges under that article. The argument is that, as there is no express constitutional restriction as to the removal of such judges, they come within the same class as executive officers, and that statutes and practice in respect thereof may properly be used to refute the authority of the legislative decision of 1789 and acquiescence therein.

The fact seems to be that judicial removals were not considered in the First Congress, and that the First Congress . . . and succeeding Congresses until 1804, assimilated the judges appointed for the territories to those appointed under Article III, and provided life tenure for them, while other officers of those territories were appointed for a term of

years unless sooner removed.57 Although Myers did not consider the removal of an Article III judge, Chief Justice Taft's dictum indicated that federal judges could be removed only by impeachment. Only some executive officers, he posited, could be removed by other means. To some degree, this view has been observed in legislation vesting the President with removal power. Revised Statutes 1768 58 gave the President, in his discretion, authority to suspend any civil officer appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, except judges of the courts of the United States. Chief Justice Taft further noted that Congress could never take onto itself the power to remove or the right to participate in the exercise of the powers to remove inferior executive officers.59 It seems to me logical to ask, if Congress could not so act here, how could it constitutionally enact legislation which would permit the removal of an Article III judge by any means other than impeachment? Any legislation sanctioning other means of removal would seem to infringe the constitutional principle of the separation of governmental powers.

The question of removal was again raised in a later case, Humphrey's Executor v. United States. 60 That case concerned the issue whether a commissioner appointed to the Federal Trade Commission for a fixed term under the Federal Trade Commission Act could be removed by the President for a reason other than inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office. The Court held that Commissioner Humphrey could be removed by the President but only for one of the enumerated reasons. În limiting the grounds for removal to those expressly stated in the statute, the Court distinguished the Myers case which had permitted the removal of the postmaster for reasons unspecified in the relevant Act.61 The Court found the office of postmaster to be essentially unlike the position of a Federal Trade Commissioner:

A postmaster is an executive officer restricted to the performance of executive functions. He is charged with no duty at all related to either the legislative or the judicial power. The actual decision in the Myers case finds support in the theory that such an officer is merely one of the units in the executive department and, hence, inherently subject to the exclusive and illimitable power of removal by the Chief Executive, whose subordinate and aide he is. 62

57 272 U.S. at 154-55.
58 The statute is cited in full in McAllister v. United States, 141 U.S. 174, 177 (1891).
59 See discussion at p. 444 infra.
60 295 U.S. 602 (1935).

61 The Court distinguished the case on the grounds that the narrow issue treated in Myers "was only that the President had power to remove a postmaster of the first class, without the advice and consent of the Senate as required by act of Congress.” Id. at 626. The Court also distinguished the Shurtlef case as one dealing with “exceptional” circumstances. Id. at 623.

62 Id. at 627.

« PreviousContinue »