JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Amid allegations of infidelity and blackmail by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, whispers of a possible impeachment attempt have already begun circulating around the State Capitol. Some lawmakers have already issued calls for the Governor to resign from his office.
Impeachment serves as the constitutional process in which the legislature might ensure that the other branches of government do not overstep or conduct themselves or their business in a corrupt fashion.
The process itself is just the first of two steps used to remove an elected official. Impeachment is not the same as being found guilty but serves more as the decision making process on whether a trial is warranted.
But what is the process of impeachment, and what rules apply?
Article VII of the Missouri Constitution states that “All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.”
The constitution states that the Missouri House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment.
Once the House would approve the articles of impeachment, the case would be tried before the state’s Supreme Court – unless the person being impeached is the governor or a member of the Supreme Court. In that instance, they shall be tried by a special commission of “seven eminent jurists” to be elected by the Senate.
Section 2 of Article VII states that “the supreme court or special commission shall take an oath to try impartially the person impeached, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of five-sevenths of the court or special commission.”
If impeached, the statute says that judgment of impeachment shall not extend beyond removal from office, but will also not prevent punishment on the charges.
If the House does indeed choose to file for impeachment, it will not be the first proceedings to take place.
In fact, the most recent case of impeachment took place in 2014, when a Missouri House committee held hearings into three proposed articles of impeachment against former Gov. Jay Nixon for three separate complaints, including an executive order directing officials to accept joint tax returns from same-sex couples who had been married in other states, a lack of speed in calling special elections, and “insufficiently” punishing Missouri Department of Public Safety officials for releasing a database of Missourians with permits to carry concealed weapons. That case was dropped by the House when the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said that the “willful misconduct” by Gov. Nixon was insufficient to “warrant forwarding the impeachment resolutions to the full House of Representatives” for their consideration.
Prior to the impeachment proceedings of Nixon, the last – and only – time that an elected statewide official was impeached and removed from office was in 1994 when Secretary of State Judith Moriarty was accused of back-dating her son’s filing for an election. In all, there have been 10 impeachment cases in the Show-Me State dating back as far as 1825.