Professor Frank Bowman’s blog, Impeachable Offenses, focuses on federal impeachment procedures. However, as the Missouri General Assembly is set to convene in a special session on May 18 to consider whether or not to impeach Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, various Missouri media outlets recently contacted Bowman to help explain the process.
On KY3 TV in Springfield, Mo., Bowman explains that, after the House of Representatives approves the Articles of Impeachment, the case then gets handed over to seven judges, from either the state circuit or appellate courts, who are nominated by the Senate. Five of those seven would then have to agree to find the governor guilty and remove him from office.
After being impeached by the House, the sitting governor could be suspended if the panel of judges approves suspension. However, “[He] would continue formally in office in the sense that [he] would continue to get salary and benefits, but [he] essentially would be prevented from performing official functions,” Bowman explains.
In a May 5 article in the Columbia Daily Tribune, “Latest Greiten report could help settle important impeachment question,” Bowman discusses the interpretation of the Missouri Constitution’s language on impeachment and whether or not the impeachable offense needs to have occurred while in office. Bowman argues that if impeachment requires an act while in office, “That would create the absurd result of an officeholder who could not be removed for crimes committed to obtain office.”
A May 11 article in the Kansas City Star, “Questions abound as lawmakers prepare to take up Greitens’ future as governor,” discusses Constitutional questions about if and when Lieutenant Mike Parson would assume the powers of the office. There is a provision in the state Constitution stating that “on the death, conviction or impeachment, or resignation of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall become governor for the remainder of the term.” In addition, a state law say that if an elected official is impeached, “he is hereby suspended from exercising his office, after he shall be notified thereof, until his acquittal.” Bowman points out that in 1994, the state Supreme Court made it clear that suspension is not automatic and is up to the seven judges conducting the trial. Adding, “the governor stays governor until the impeachment process – House vote and judge vote – produces a final result.”
A May 15 article in the Columbia Missourian, “Dropped felony charge won’t protect Greitens from potential impeachment, expert says,” discusses how the dropped charges have no legal effect on disciplinary action. “Criminal charges and possible articles of impeachment have no relationship to each other at all,” Bowman says.
“If the governor had been tried and convicted, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he would be impeached,” Bowman says. “If the governor had been tried and acquitted, that wouldn’t have necessarily had an effect either because the legislature is an entirely separate body from the criminal courts and they’re not bound by the results of a criminal case, whether conviction or acquittal.”