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One of the Supreme Court’s most significant cases on the political-question doctrine began with the impeachment of a government official named Nixon. No, not that Nixon.
Walter Nixon was a federal-court judge accused of corruption. Nixon was convicted and imprisoned for perjuring himself in front of a grand jury, but he refused to resign his judgeship. As a result, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached him.
The Senate appointed a committee to hear the evidence against Nixon and present its findings to the full Senate. Afterward, the Senate voted to convict Nixon.
Nixon sued, alleging that the Impeachment Trial Clause of the U.S. Constitution required that the entire Senate hear the evidence against him firsthand. The district court dismissed the case as a nonjusticiable political question, and the court of appeals affirmed.
The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case to determine whether courts could constitutionally review impeachment proceedings. Ultimately, the Court held that the Constitution vested sole authority over the conduct of impeachment trials in the Senate. Thus, the lower court’s dismissal of the case was affirmed.