In a normal trial the judge presides over jury selection during the voir dire process. Jurors are excused for causes such as lack of impartiality. Does the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court have the authority to excuse senators from a presidential impeachment if the Chief Justice determines them to be partial to one side or the other?

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    If senators were excused on the grounds of lack of impartiality I expect the Chief justice would sit in front of an empty senate. Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 18:18
  • The Chief Justice is not presiding in the 2021 impeachment proceeding, of course.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 22:35
  • The senate is rather more analogous to a panel of judges than to a jury.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 8:20

2 Answers 2


Can The Chief Justice Excuse Senators From The Jury In A Presidential Impeachment?

No, the jury (such as it may be) is fixed by the Constitution. Article I, Section 3, "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." Trials of impeachment may include judges and other civil officers, Article 2, Section 4, where the chief justice would not be the presiding officer.

There is nothing in the Senate rules permitting the presiding officer to excuse any Senator. However, a Senator may be excused, by stating a reason, and by vote of a majority of Senators present.1

There are numerous examples in the Procedure and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials ..., including,

In the trial of Judge Charles Swayne in 1905, just before the vote was to be taken on the first article of impeachment, Senator P. C. Knox of Pennsylvania asked to be excused from voting as a result of his absence on account of illness. The Presiding Officer put the question and the Senator was excused.

A total of twenty-one requests by Senators to be excused from voting were granted during votes on the articles involving Judge Louderback.

1 PROCEDURE AND GUIDELINES FOR IMPEACHMENT TRIALS IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, Excused from Participation in Trial or from Voting, pp. 77-78.

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    Re; "a Senator may request to be excused". Note the additional wording of Article I, section 3: "When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation." along with "And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present." A Senator appears to have the Constitutional power to "self-excuse" by refusing to take the "Oath or Affirmation" or by simply not being "present". Article I, Section 5: "may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide." may apply, though.
    – Just Me
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 20:14

No, the presiding Chief Justice only has the responsibility of enforcing the rules of order (time limits for each side to speak, reading the results of the final impeachment vote, etc.) The Justice in this case is a referee and not allowed any say in the activities of Senate or in whether there is a conviction or not. Senators may choose to excuse themselves and the Constitution allows for the conviction to occur when 2/3rds of the senators PRESENT vote to convict.

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