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Background

Back in 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached for violating the Tenure of Office Act of 1867 when he tried to remove the secretary of war Edwin Stanton without the Senate's consent. The specific portion that the Senate used in the main article of implachment was Section 2 of the act:

But if the Senate shall refuse to concur in such suspension, such officer so suspended shall forthwith resume the functions of his office, and the powers of the person so performing its duties in his stead shall cease, and the official salary and emoluments of such officer shall, during such suspension, belong to the person so performing the duties thereof, and no to the officer so suspended.

Even though Andrew Johnson's impeachment failed, it is likely that this act would have been rendered unconstitutional as per Myers v. United States:

When on the merits we find our conclusion strongly favoring the view which prevailed in the First Congress, we have no hesitation in holding that conclusion to be correct; and it therefore follows that the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, in so far as it attempted to prevent the President from removing executive officers who had been appointed by him by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was invalid, and that subsequent legislation of the same effect was equally so.

This sparked my curiosity around articles of impeachment, namely...

Question

If a law used for an article of impeachment is rendered unconstitutional, is that article of impeachment nullified?

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    It's also worth noting that "high crimes and misdemeanors" is a political distinction, not a legal one. No one has to commit a legal crime to be impeached -- it could be for something as simple as an affair with foreign head of state, for example. – George Stocker Oct 3 at 15:04
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No. The Constitution does not provide any process for nullifying a conviction after an official is impeached. Impeachment of course is equivalent to a criminal indictment. The impeached official is then tried by the Senate, and if convicted, is removed from office. That decision is final.

Further, impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one. The impeached official need not be guilty of anything that is actually a crime under the law. They can be impeached for "misdemeanors", which has to be understood in the 18th century sense of "bad behavior", not the current one of a minor crime.

PS in response to comments: The phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" should (as I understand it, but IANAL and would welcome expert, supported corrections) be parsed as (high crimes) and (misdemeanors). "High crimes" is a recognized legal term that existed in English law centuries before the US Constitution. From the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_crimes_and_misdemeanors ), "high crimes" are those which "signifies activity by or against those who have special duties acquired by taking an oath of office that are not shared with common persons. A high crime is one that can only be done by someone in a unique position of authority, which is political in character, who does things to circumvent justice."

Again, "misdemeanors" has a different meaning today than that used by the authors of the Constitution. It could be any sort of "bad behavior", not just something illegal, for instance, if a President spends all his/her time getting drunk and watching porn. Though IMHO that sort of thing might nowadays be handled under the 25th Amendment rather than impeachment.

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    That's "high misdemeanors." The misdemeanors justifying impeachment are those to do with affairs of state. This is something that should have come up more during a the Clinton impeachment. – phoog Oct 3 at 4:44
  • @phoog the wording of the constitution is "high crimes and misdemeanors". Article 2, Section 4: archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript – user151841 Oct 3 at 15:17
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    @user151841 yes, but that should be parsed as (high (crimes and misdemeanors)) rather than ((high crimes) and (misdemeanors)). If you search for the phrase "high misdemeanors" you'll find that it was used quite a bit in this context in the 18th century. I find it unlikely that the constitutional convention intended the power of impeachment to be wielded against someone who, for example, got into a barroom brawl. – phoog Oct 3 at 15:36
  • @phoog Now I'm trying to imagine the President getting into a barroom brawl. – Mohair Oct 3 at 16:02
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In short, no.

More fully, Senators and Representatives are "bound" by just as strong an "Oath or Affirmation" "to support" the Constitution as the Supreme Court is. If a defendant is not innocent under the facts or the terms of the law, a judge may consider whether the law is unconstitutional. Similarly, if in a Senator's opinion, the alleged "high crime" or "misdemeanor" of an official only amounted to violating an unconstitutional law, then the Senator can support the constitution by refusing to convict the official on that charge.

But notice that the Senator is under no obligation to take anyone else's word for whether the law is unconstitutional. The Constitution is designed to accommodate good-faith disagreements among Senators about the constitutionality of laws.

And many a Senator has correctly noted that some Supreme Court rulings were incorrect about the constitutionality of laws. For example, either Plessy v. Ferguson (upholding "separate but equal" laws) or the series of rulings beginning with Brown v. Board of Education (inasmuch as they overturned Plessy) was incorrect. And the Supreme Court does not have the authority to meddle with Senate rules. So in their roles as individual Senators, Senators are under no obligation to take the Supreme Court's word for whether a law is unconstitutional.

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    Your last paragraph is rather vague not to say misleading. In the US the legislative branch cannot overrule the supreme court. They can change the laws though to work around supreme court decisions. In other countries the legislature can outright overrule their supreme court though. For more, see this question which discussed "judicial supremacy" vs "parliamentary supremeacy" in various countries politics.stackexchange.com/questions/33781/… for a dicussion. – Fizz Oct 3 at 14:12
  • @Fizz -- +1. My point was about Senators' individual consciences, and how they follow their consciences when/if keeping their oaths to "support" the Constitution. Theoretically, Congress can severely restrict the subject matter that is subject to Supreme Court rulings, but that is not the topic of this question. I have revised the paragraph to clarify – Jasper Oct 3 at 16:19
  • @Fizz - while the legislative branch can't really overrule the court, that doesn't meant that it has to actually follow its guidance either, except perhaps in some of the narrow ways the legislative branch can take direct action rather than legislate. So for example passing a new law with the exact same provisions just thrown out by the supreme court, while perhaps futile, is possible and in fact many state legislatures seem to come very close to that on controversial issues. Given that the court does not render advisory opinions, interpolating the line is almost a given. – Chris Stratton Oct 3 at 19:31

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