Nixon (not that Nixon) was a Federal judge. He was convicted
of committing perjury and was put in prison.
Nixon refused to resign. The
House of Representatives impeached him, and sent the matter to the Senate.
The Senate appointed a
committee to hear the evidence against Nixon, and their report was given
to the full Senate, who voted to remove Nixon from office.
Nixon sued, claiming that the
Senate vote was improper.
Nixon argued that Article
I, Section 3 of the Constitution
gave the Senate the sole power to try impeachments. Therefore, having a
committee hear the evidence wasn't good enough. He wanted a full trial
before the entire Senate.
The US Supreme Court dismissed
The US Supreme Court found
that the courts may not review the impeachment of a Federal officer
because the Constitution gives sole authority for impeachments to the
The Court felt that the
'checks and balances' to impeachment was that the Senate could only take
up impeachment referred to them by the House. There was no need for the
courts to provide appellate review, because basically, the Senate was
providing appellate review of the House's decision to impeach.
The Court found that the
issue was not judiciable because
impeachment is a political question.
In a dissent, it was argued
that if Congress had significantly deviated from justice, then maybe the
Court should intervene.
For example, what if the
Senate had determined Nixon's guilt with something unfair like a flip of
a coin? Would it still be right for the judiciary to not offer some form
of judicial relief? What if they just impeached him because they thought
he was too liberal?
Compare this case to Powell
v. McCormick (395 U.S. 486 (1969)),
in that case, the US Supreme Court found that they could intervene in a
similar case because all they were doing was 'interpreting the
Constitution'. Wasn't Nixon simply asking the Court to interpret Article
I, Section 3?