What exactly does the Judge presiding over impeachment hearings do? As of now it is clear that John Roberts will not be sitting in for the second impeachment, and Rand Paul and many Republicans have raised points that it is a conflict of interest to have democrat Senator Leahy presiding over the trial.

On its face, I would tend to agree with that...since as a Senator, Leahy would be required to vote himself so he would quite literally be the "judge and jury".

Is there something I am missing about this conflict of intrest? And what power will the Judge have over the trial regardless of who it is?

  • It answers half of my question about the role of the judge, but not the part about conflict of intrest; I will refine the question so as to not be repetitive Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


It is quite unlike the position of Judge in a criminal trial. The role of the Chief Justice in the Senate trial of a President is like the Presiding Senator in the Senate day to day business. To quote Wikipedia, their role is "maintaining order and decorum, recognizing members to speak, and interpreting the Senate's rules, practices, and precedents."

While a judge also maintains decorum the main role of a Judge is to settle points of law in a case and decide on the penalty for a convicted person. The presiding officer in a Senate trial does neither. They cannot settle points of Senate rules, since they can be overruled by a simple majority of the senators. They cannot decide on the penalty, since Constitutionally the only penalty is "Removal from office and disqualification".

There is no sense in which the President pro tempore would be acting as Judge and Jury.

  • The framers seemed to think there's a conflict of interest. The reason the Chief Justice presides over presidential impeachment is because otherwise the VP would preside, and he would take over the role if POTUS is convicted.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 21:45

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