Steven Schwinn

  • December 6, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Steven D. Schwinn, Professor of Law, the John Marshall Law School

    *Read the full Supreme Court Review here.

    We are thrilled to bring you this inaugural edition of the American Constitution Society Supreme Court Term Review. In these pages, you’ll find a series of outstanding critical essays, penned by the nation’s top legal scholars and practitioners, on the most important cases and themes from the Supreme Court’s October 2016 Term. You’ll also find a splendid Foreword, written by Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, that puts these cases and themes in the broader context of key happenings and trends at the Court.

    In the many panels and reviews of the Court’s October 2016 Term, we sometimes heard that the Term was unremarkable, with no Big Blockbuster cases, no significant changes in the law, and no notable impacts on major political issues—at least as compared to so many other recent Terms. Many said that this was the direct result of an eight-member, equally divided Bench for most of the Term. That is: the Court was reluctant to take on major controversial cases without a full staffing.

  • September 14, 2016
    Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:
     
    We, as professors who specialize in constitutional law, write to urge you and your colleagues not to approve the fast-tracked resolution to impeach John Koskinen, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
     
    When it comes to impeachment, the Constitution leaves many open and difficult questions. Whether the alleged conduct of John Koskinen is impeachable is not one of them. There is simply no credible case for impeachment.
     
    The Constitution is designed to reserve the impeachment and removal from office for conduct that inflicts the most serious harms on society and that critically compromises the ability of an officer to govern. The Constitution limits the availability of impeachment in two ways. First, the Constitution provides a very limited definition of the scope of impeachment. Second, the Constitution erects significant procedural protections against impeachment and removal from office.
     
    I. The Constitution defines the scope of the impeachment power narrowly.
    An officer is subject to impeachment and removal from office only on the grounds of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is true that the phrase “other high crimes and misdemeanors” is open-ended. It is nonetheless clear that the phrase charts a narrow scope. The text explicitly links the phrase – by employing the term “other” – to definite terms treason and bribery. The familiar canon of construction, ejusdem generis, tells us that it is proper to understand the open-ended term as limited to conduct that involves the attributes common to the definite terms. Treason and bribery each involves an immediate and elemental threat to our constitutional system; an officer who commits either of these offenses is indisputably unfit for office. Thus, the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” refers not to any misconduct but to misconduct that harms the nation as seriously as treason or bribery and that renders an officer as indisputably unfit to serve as an officer who commits treason or bribery.