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Since the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court must preside over the Senate trial of an impeached president, can the Chief Justice delay such a trial by resigning?

My understanding is that the articles of impeachment would have to be postponed until the Senate had confirmed a new Chief Justice, who would have to have been appointed by the President under impeachment. That seems like a textbook example of when to recuse yourself, but the Constitution appears to make no provision for that.

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    Not entirely sure why this is flagged as opinion-based; if the answer is ‘we don’t know for lack of precedence’ then that is a factual answer, not an opinion. – Jan Dec 19 '19 at 4:54
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    @Jan precedent, not precedence. – phoog Dec 19 '19 at 5:16
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Since the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court must preside over the Senate trial of an impeached president, can the Chief Justice delay such a trial by resigning?

No, the powers and duties [of the chief justice] shall devolve upon the associate justice next in precedence who is able to act.1 It appears that, in that scenario, Justice Clarence Thomas would become the presiding officer in the impeachment trial.2


1 28 U.S. Code § 3.Vacancy in office of Chief Justice; disability.

Whenever the Chief Justice is unable to perform the duties of his office or the office is vacant, his powers and duties shall devolve upon the associate justice next in precedence who is able to act, until such disability is removed or another Chief Justice is appointed and duly qualified.

2 Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Associate justices have seniority by order of appointment, although the chief justice is always considered to be the most senior. If two justices are appointed on the same day, the older is designated the senior justice of the two. Currently, the senior associate justice is Clarence Thomas.

  • What happens if all the Justices simultaneously resign? – nick012000 Dec 19 '19 at 4:33
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    @nick012000 - The Supreme Court would not hear any cases until at least six justices (the quorum) were appointed. Upon appointment of the chief justice, an impeachment trial could commence, or resume, as the case may be. 28 U.S. Code § 1. Number of justices; quorum. – Rick Smith Dec 19 '19 at 4:56
  • @RickSmith additionally, such an state of affairs would leave the Judicial Conference without a leader to call its meetings (thus making it impossible to amend rules of procedure or court policies), prevent the appointment of FISC judges, and prevent the appointment of members to the JPMDL – aidanh010 Dec 24 '19 at 6:23

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