Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 14: Impeachment Records

Chapter 14. Records of the Judiciary Committee and Related Committees

Table of Contents

Records of the Judiciary Committee and Related Committees from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee Records discussed in this chapter:
Impeachment Records

14.113 The impeachment power granted to Congress under the Constitution provides an effective tool for the investigation of executive and judicial misbehavior and its elimination through the conviction and removal of the offender. Under the Constitution the power of impeachment is reserved for the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is reserved for the Senate. Since 1789, approximately 90 impeachment-related inquiries have been initiated in the House. Twelve impeachments have reached the Senate, and four of these have resulted in conviction. Of the approximately 80 investigations conducted after the Judiciary Committee's formation in 1813, the committee has been involved in a great majority, including the formal impeachment investigations of two Presidents. The House Judiciary Committee investigation of President Nixon is, however, beyond the timeframe of this guide.

14.114 Impeachment proceedings have been initiated by the introduction of a resolution by a member, by a letter or message from the President, by a grand jury action forwarded to the House from a Territorial legislature, by a memorial setting forth charges, by a resolution authorizing a general investigation, and by a resolution reported by the House Judiciary Committee. After submission of charges, a committee investigation has been undertaken. If the charges have been supported by the investigation, the committee has reported an impeachment resolution, which in four of the five post-1900 cases has included articles of impeachment. The impeachment resolution has been subject to adoption in the House by majority vote. The next step has been the selection of House managers to direct the proceedings in the Senate.

14.115 There are files on 54 impeachment inquiries before the 1946 reorganization. The records of the impeachment inquiries may be filed in several locations; each impeachment may require a thorough search of the records. Many of the records are filed in a special category for impeachment records and not with the records of the Judiciary Committee or other committee involved. Some of the investigative records are filed under the resolution authorizing the investigation in the Judiciary Committee bill files. The records may be filed along with the committee papers of a special subcommittee designated to carry out the investigation, such as the 89th Congress Ad Hoc Special Subcommittee on Judicial Behavior, which investigated Judge Stephen Chandler.