Impeachment: Trials and Errors

By Irving Brant | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
PECK AND HUMPHREYS

FOLLOWING THE ACQUITTAL Of Justice Chase, a quarter century elapsed before another impeachment was voted by the House of Representatives. On May 11, 1830, the Senate took up charges against James H. Peck, United States judge for the district of Missouri. Judge Peck, encountering criticism of his decision against a claim to public lands by the Soulard family, had published his opinion in a St. Louis newspaper. The losing litigant's lawyer, Luke E. Lawless, countered with an article in the same paper specifying eighteen legal errors in the opinion and challenging the judge's recollection of the lawyer's argument. Peck found Lawless guilty of contempt of court, sent him to prison for twenty-four hours, and suspended him from practicing in federal court for eighteen months.

Peck was impeached for this action, which was alleged to have been taken with criminal intent. He was acquitted, 21 to 22 -- eight votes short of the required two thirds. The case was noteworthy only for the opinions that developed

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