A Report Card on the Impeachment: Judging the Institutions that Judged President Clinton

26 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2001

See all articles by Susan Low Bloch

Susan Low Bloch

Georgetown University Law Center


Now that we have lived through one of the most unusual events in American history - the impeachment and trial of the President of the United States - it is appropriate, indeed essential, that we assess how the process worked and learn what we can from it. Specifically, I want to address two questions: First, how well did the impeachment process work? In good academic fashion, I will grade each of the governmental institutions involved - giving them, if you will, a report card. Second, what did we learn from the experience to guide us if, in the future, we face the impeachment of a President?

Let me start by saying that President Clinton's misbehavior was inexcusable. Had he been more disciplined, the nation would have been spared a year of agony. But his "inappropriate" relationship with Monica Lewinsky was neither criminal nor impeachable; and had he been more forthright when confronted in January 1998, we probably also would have been spared the year of torture. However, the $64,000 question is whether his efforts to spare himself, his family, and Monica Lewinsky the embarrassment of disclosure were impeachable offenses.

Before beginning the evaluation, I would like to disclose my personal connection with the saga. I first became involved when Paula Jones sued the President in 1994. I argued, in an op-ed, that a private damage action against a sitting President must wait until the President is out of office, unless the plaintiff can show irreparable harm from such a delay. After the Supreme Court ultimately rejected that argument, and Independent Counsel Ken Starr sent his referral to the House of Representatives, I urged members of the House not to impeach. I was also one of the law professors who drafted and circulated the letter arguing that the President's actions did not warrant impeachment. Furthermore, I was one of the nineteen constitutional scholars who testified before the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment. After the House voted to impeach the President, I counseled members of the Senate on their role in the President's trial. In short, I am not unbiased but believe I can be fair in evaluating the performance of the various institutions involved, giving a grade to each of them.

Suggested Citation

Low Bloch, Susan, A Report Card on the Impeachment: Judging the Institutions that Judged President Clinton. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=256837 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.256837

Susan Low Bloch (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9063 (Phone)

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