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85 Nw. U. L. Rev. 903 (1990-1991)
Impeachment Clause: A Wild Card in the Constitution

handle is hein.journals/illlr85 and id is 921 raw text is: Copyright 1991 by William H. Rehnquist                      Printed in U.S.A.
Vol. 85, No. 4
William H. Rehnquist**
We are living in an era of the bicentennial of the United States Con-
stitution. Nineteen eighty-seven was the bicentennial of the framing of
the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787, and next year-1991-will be
the bicentennial of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. This is a good
time to reflect, not just on individual court decisions construing the Con-
stitution, but on some of its broader implications.
If one were to select the two major contributions to the art of gov-
ernment made by the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia in 1878, I think
one would have to select: first, the separation of the executive from the
legislative power, and second, the creation of the independent judiciary
with the power of judicial review. Article II of the Constitution estab-
lishes the President as the Chief Executive in his own right, without any
dependency on Congress such as that of a Prime Minister in a parliamen-
tary system. That article confers upon the President powers which Con-
gress cannot take away.
Article III confers upon the judiciary tenure during good behavior,
and contains a prohibition against diminution of compensation. Though
the power of judicial review-the authority to declare legislative acts un-
constitutional-is only implied in the Constitution, it was established
early in our constitutional history by the decision of the Supreme Court
in Marbury v. Madison.1
Both of these principles are alive and well today, and we tend to
assume that it could not have turned out any other way in the course of
our two hundred years of constitutional history. But that assumption is
wrong. The impeachment power conferred on Congress by the Constitu-
* Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered this address at the Northwestern University School of Law
on September 27, 1990 during the First Annual Howard J. Trienens Visiting Scholar Program. The
Program is designed to enable the School of Law to invite a leading jurist to be in residence at the
School, providing students and faculty with a perspective on the judicial process and contemporary
legal issues.
** Chief Justice of the United States.
1 5 U.S. (I Cranch) 137 (1803).

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