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Impeachment In California

The Founding Fathers did not invent impeachment.  The procedure was largely copied from English precedent dating to the reign of Edward III.  In 1376, the so-called "Good Parliament" under the leadership of Peter de la Mare impeached the King's chamberlain, William Latimer, and several others.  In doing so, Parliament established a procedural precedent that is mirrored in the U.S. Constitution: the lower house (Commons/House of Representatives) prosecutes the case before the upper house (Lords/Senate):

"In impeachments, the Commons, a a great representative inquest of the nation, first find the crime, and then as, prosecutors, support their charges before the Lords; while the Lords, exercising at once the functions of a high court of justice an of a jury, try and adjudicate upon the charge preferred."

Thomas Erskine May, A Treatise on the Law, Privileges, and Proceedings and Usage of Parliament  56 (12th Ed. l917).  

Below are some questions and answers about impeachment in California:

Who is subject to impeachment?

State officers elected on a statewide basis, members of the State Board of Equalization, and judges of state courts.  Cal. Const. Art. IV, § 18(b) and Cal. Gov't Code § 3020.

What are the grounds for impeachment?

Misconduct in office.  Id.

How is impeachment conducted?

As in the English model, the Assembly has the sole power of impeachment.  Cal. Const. Art. IV, § 18(b).  The Senate, sitting as a court of record, tries the impeachment.  Id. and Cal. Gov't Code § 3020.5 & 3022.

Must the Assembly deliver articles of impeachment to the Senate?

Yes, but there is no statutorily prescribed time period within which the articles must be delivered.  Cal. Gov't Code § 3023.

Is the impeached official required to answer?

No.  An official may object in writing to the sufficiency of the articles of impeachment or may answer the articles by an oral plea of not guilty.  Cal. Gov't Code § 3028.  If the official's objection is not sustained by a majority of the members of the Senate, the official must enter a plea.  Cal. Gov't Code § 3030.

Must the Senators be impartial?

A Senator may not act or vote on an impeachment unless he or she first takes an oath "truly and impartially to hear, try, and determine the impeachment".  Cal. Gov't Code § 3031.

May an official continue to act after impeachment?

Whenever articles of impeachment are presented to the Senate, the officer is temporarily suspended from office and can not act in an official capacity until acquittal.  Cal. Gov't Code § 3037.  The constitution provides that the Lieutenant Governor acts as Governor during impeachment.  Cal. Const. Art. V, § 10.  If the official is convicted, the official may be suspended or removed from office and disqualified to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under the State.  Cal. Gov't Code § 3035.  An official whether acquitted or convicted, remains subject to criminal punishment.  Cal. Const. Art. IV, § 18(b).  

 

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