Nixon v. United States
506 U.S. 224 (1993)

  • Nixon (not that Nixon) was a Federal judge. He was convicted of committing perjury and was put in prison.
  • Nixon refused to resign. The House of Representatives impeached him, and sent the matter to the Senate.
  • The Senate appointed a committee to hear the evidence against Nixon, and their report was given to the full Senate, who voted to remove Nixon from office.
  • Nixon sued, claiming that the Senate vote was improper.
    • Nixon argued that Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution gave the Senate the sole power to try impeachments. Therefore, having a committee hear the evidence wasn’t good enough. He wanted a full trial before the entire Senate.
  • The US Supreme Court dismissed the case.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the courts may not review the impeachment of a Federal officer because the Constitution gives sole authority for impeachments to the Senate.
      • The Court felt that the ‘checks and balances’ to impeachment was that the Senate could only take up impeachment referred to them by the House. There was no need for the courts to provide appellate review, because basically, the Senate was providing appellate review of the House’s decision to impeach.
    • The Court found that the issue was not judiciable because impeachment is a political question.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that if Congress had significantly deviated from justice, then maybe the Court should intervene.
    • For example, what if the Senate had determined Nixon’s guilt with something unfair like a flip of a coin? Would it still be right for the judiciary to not offer some form of judicial relief? What if they just impeached him because they thought he was too liberal?
  • Compare this case to Powell v. McCormick (395 U.S. 486 (1969)), in that case, the US Supreme Court found that they could intervene in a similar case because all they were doing was ‘interpreting the Constitution’. Wasn’t Nixon simply asking the Court to interpret Article I, Section 3?