Volcansek's justification for a new book on judicial impeachment stems from the impeachment and removal from office of three federal judges during the 1980's: U.S. Judges Harry
Claiborne (Nevada), Alcee Hastings (Florida), and Walter Nixon (Mississippi). Prior to that time no federal jurist had been
removed from the bench by this process since the impeachment of Judge Halsted Ritter in 1936. In the half century interval
many students of public law and government had come to think of judicial impeachment as a moribund instrument of the past --
although to be sure, many impeachment resolutions had been submitted to the Congress during the preceding decades.
However, virtually all of these had smacked too clearly of partisan politics and/or personal animosity toward the Justices to
have any serious chance of success. (Earl Warren had often been threatened with impeachment for his Court's liberal decisions
on civil rights and William O. Douglas had been likewise threatened after his fourth trip to the alter, with a very young bride.)
But it was not until the impeachment and actual removal of three U.S. jurists during the 1980's that it became clear to all that the
impeachment process was alive and well and a subject that needed to be dusted off and re-studied by students of government
and public law. Such was Professor Volcansek's task.
In the first of her eight chapters she outlines the history of the impeachment process in America and provides some examples of
its uses prior to 1936. She outlines some key questions and some possible answers that judicial scholars have pondered for a
long time. For example, can a sitting judge (or any civil official liable to impeachment) be prosecuted before impeachment?
What in fact constitutes "high Crimes and Misdemeanors?" Volcansek also provides a good discussion of the Judicial Conduct
Act of 1980 which rightfully was passed to supplement the formal, and more radical process of impeachment. In this chapter
she outlines the significance of four factors which permeate all of her three case studies: (1) the activities of law enforcement
officials, (2) the Judicial Conduct Act, (3) the formal impeachment process, and (4) ordinary partisan politics.
The next six chapters address the three individuals who were impeached and removed from office, with two devoted to each
jurist. For each judge one chapter examines the criminal court charges to which he had been subjected, and a subsequent
chapter discusses the actual impeachment process in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. She notes that bribery
was the core charge against each judge, at least at the inception of investigations, but she also takes great pains to discuss the
differences among the three cases. For example, Judges Claiborne and Nixon had been convicted of criminal charges brought
against them, thereby making the impeachment process much easier for the House and Senate. On the other hand, Judge
Hastings had been acquitted at the trial court level; and this fact allowed him to raise the issues of double jeopardy and of a
personal and racial vendetta. (Judge Hastings is Black.)
Although the author does an excellent job of leading us through mountains of transcripts, hearings, and legal minutia, still only
those with a particular interest in one of the individual judges will want to do more than just skim much of this material. The
eighth chapter compares and contrasts these three cases studies taken as a whole, provides an evaluation of the fairness and
utility of the process, and it concludes with a modest suggestion for reforming the system, viz., that some type of special counsel
be used to investigate allegations of judicial misconduct in such a way so as to insulate the judiciary from executive and partisan
Most of the author's sources are readily available to the public (such as, books, articles, and newspaper accounts) although she
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considerable use of original transcripts which are not always so readily accessible. There does not appear to be any reliance on
newly-acquired data nor the discovery of any "smoking gun" which would put any of these case studies in any radically new
light. Her prose tends to be very objective and matter of fact, but with better-than-average writing skills she often manages to
paint a compelling picture of the drama and emotions which frequently surrounded the judicial and Congressional hearings.
While she sometimes discusses the protagonists in sympathetic terms, still there is no question that her approach is fair and
objective. The "References" at the end of the book are excellent and very comprehensive, and the index is adequate for a book
of fewer than 200 pages.
The readership audience of this book should include attorneys, graduate or undergraduate students in courses in judicial
process, law and society, or judicial administration, and members of the general public who are part of the judiciary's "attentive