The Impeachment of Justice Samuel P. Chase

samuel-chase-has-a-united-states-supreme-court-justice-ever-been-impeached

On this day in 1805 the U.S. Senate refused to remove Associate Justice Samuel P. Chase from the Supreme Court after he had been impeached by the House of Representatives.

Chase was a member of the Federalist Party and he often allowed his strong political opinions to affect his rulings.

His legal decisions became even more politically motivated after the election of 1800 when President Thomas Jefferson and his Republican Party took control of government.

Justice Chase frequently denounced politicians and their legislation from the bench.  And, on one occasion, he refused to dismiss a grand jury until they indicted a local publisher (with whom Chase disagreed) for his “seditious behavior.”

Jefferson and one of his allies in Congress, Virginia Representative John Randolph, took action to impeach Chase.

The articles of impeachment cited numerous Constitutional violations and described Chase as “intemperate and inflammatory…indecent and unbecoming” with his actions being “highly unwarrantable.”

The House of Representatives voted 73 to 32 to impeach Justice Chase and his impeachment trial began in the U.S. Senate on February 9, 1805.

A two-thirds majority would be required to convict Chase of the charges and remove him from office.

Within less than a month the Senate voted to acquit Chase on all charges and to restore him to his office.

 

 

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