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Samuel Chase, 1741–1811, oil on canvas by Charles Wilson Peale, ca. 1773

Maryland Historical Society

Samuel Chase

Congress Impeaches a Supreme Court Justice

The constitution empowers the House of Representatives to impeach and the Senate to try—and if found guilty, remove from office—the president and other federal officers for high crimes and misdemeanors. It also states that justices shall hold office only during “good Behavior.” Justice Samuel Chase, a Federalist, was impeached in 1804 and tried in 1805 for his intemperate and partisan behavior on the bench. To this date, he is the only Supreme Court justice Congress ever impeached.

I am a friend to the Constitutional independence of the Judiciary, but opposed to giving that department an oppressive and overwhelming power, destructive to the liberties of the people. I regret extremely that it has become our duty to accuse a man so eminent for talents and learning . . . of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Representative James Elliot of Vermont, Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 8th Congress, 1st Session, March 12, 1804