Nixon v. United States

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In Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993), the U.S. Supreme Court held that courts would not interfere in impeachment proceedings conducted by the U.S. Senate, because the issue is "nonjusticiable". This case concerned the impeachment of federal judge Walter Nixon, and had nothing to do with former President Richard Nixon, who was never impeached.

This case is a leading precedent for the doctrine that some issues are simply "nonjusticiable" and thus should be dismissed by a court without resolving it.

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist held:

Nixon ... argu[ed] that Senate Rule XI violates the constitutional grant of authority to the Senate to "try" all impeachments because it prohibits the whole Senate from taking part in the evidentiary hearings. See Art. I, § 3, cl. 6. Nixon sought a declaratory judgment that his impeachment conviction was void and that his judicial salary and privileges should be reinstated. ...

The history and contemporary understanding of the impeachment provisions support our reading of the constitutional language. The parties do not offer evidence of a single word in the history of the Constitutional Convention or in contemporary commentary that even alludes to the possibility of judicial review in the context of the impeachment powers. See 290 U.S. App. D.C. at 424, 938 F.2d at 243; R. Berger, Impeachment: The Constitutional Problems 116 (1973). This silence is quite meaningful in light of the several explicit references to the availability of judicial review as a check on the Legislature's power with respect to bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and statutes. See The Federalist No. 78, p. 524 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) ("Limitations . . . can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of the courts of justice"). ...
In the case before us, there is no separate provision of the Constitution that could be defeated by allowing the Senate final authority to determine the meaning of the word "try" in the Impeachment Trial Clause. We agree with Nixon that courts possess power to review either legislative or executive action that transgresses identifiable textual limits. As we have made clear, "whether the action of [either the Legislative or Executive Branch] exceeds whatever authority has been committed, is itself a delicate exercise in constitutional interpretation, and is a responsibility of this Court as ultimate interpreter of the Constitution." Baker v. Carr, supra, at 211; accord, Powell, supra, at 521.But we conclude, after exercising that delicate responsibility, that the word "try" in the Impeachment Trial Clause does not provide an identifiable textual limit on the authority which is committed to the Senate.

Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224, 228, 233, 237-38 (U.S. 1993)