Impeachment politics and the Bar

Politics are undoubtedly a primary topic of debate in bars around the country. It is extremely rare, though, when a political issue becomes a formal topic of debate and discussion for the South Dakota Bar Association. Yet that will be the case when a resolution dealing with the impeachment of Bush and Cheney will be discussed at the Bar’s annual meeting next week in Rapid City.

The Bar Association by-laws allow members to present resolutions at the annual meeting for consideration by the membership. This year, an attorney in Rapid City proposed a resolution that the State Bar recommend Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin “immediately initiate impeachment proceedings” against Bush and Cheney. The rationale? Members of the State Bar are required by law to take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and the president and vice-president have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” justifying impeachment proceedings. The specific grounds asserted in the resolution are:

  • spying on U.S. citizens without judicial warrant;
  • authorizing rendition and “systematic torture” of human beings;
  • leading the country “into an illegal war of aggression” in Iraq “on false pretenses”;
  • arresting and imprisoning American citizens without charges; and
  • using “defiant signing statements to declare that the President, in his unbridled discretion, is the law.’

In the 20+ years I’ve been a lawyer, this is the first resolution on such a hot button political issue that I can recall (although calling my memory poor is to praise it excessively). I have somewhat mixed feelings as to whether it is an appropriate topic for the state Bar. Despite that, while I’m not going to the bar convention, I probably would vote for the resolution if I were there.

There’s two things I’m fairly certain of, though. One is it takes a lot of mettle and courage of conviction to propose the resolution. The second is that it stands as much chance of success as Congress actually initiating impeachment proceedings against this administration.

[Impeachment proceedings] will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and …. will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will inlist all their animosities, partialities, influence and interest on one side, or on the other[.]

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 65

1 comment to Impeachment politics and the Bar

  • Although I’m a Canadian, I find this just a bit over the top. I followed the Clinton impeachment proceedings closely and thought, at the time, it was pure politics at play. Sounds much the same here – even though I share a great disdain for the current US president and vice-president.

    It just seems to me that a state Bar might tackle more important pressing issues dealing with poverty, social justice, lack of access to good legal services and human rights. But that’s just me and I no longer practise law. Gardening has been a much more satisfying pursuit.