Lott Won't Use Rulings to Topple Federal Judges: Impeachment Requires Crime, Senate Leader Says

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Any momentum in the House for impeaching "activist" judges ends in the Senate, where Majority Leader Trent Lott said he would consider striking down judges only if they committed crimes.

"I don't think there is going to be a plan to look at [impeachment] as a way to express our opinion on their rulings," Mr. Lott said.

Impeachment "should be based on improper conduct," not on bad decisions or opinions, the Mississippi Republican said.

The Constitution's requirement for impeachment of a federal judge is the commission of "high crimes and misdemeanors" or an absence of "good behavior."

Asked if the Senate would consider impeaching a judge who had not committed a crime, Mr. Lott said: "Not really. Not me. I mean, I'm not talking beyond that."

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas told The Washington Times last week the GOP-controlled House intends to impeach judges who legislate from the bench. "As part of our conservative efforts against judicial activism, we are going after judges."

Several House Republicans lauded Mr. DeLay's plan, and Democrats attacked it. Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, began preparing a resolution of impeachment for U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of Del Rio, Texas, who postponed swearing in a Republican sheriff and county commissioner because he had questions about absentee ballots cast by military personnel.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota yesterday called the impeachment movement "the most ludicrous idea that I have heard yet."

"It's the clearest demonstration we've seen in the 105th Congress that Republican extremism is back," he said.

"We never had a philosophical litmus test on judges when we were in the majority, especially for purposes of impeachment," Mr. Daschle said. "My heavens, go back and read the Constitution."

It takes a simple majority for the House to vote to impeach a federal judge. The impeachment case then moves into its trial phase in the Senate. A conviction requires the support of two-thirds of the senators. …