Arthur Hellman on Judicial Impeachment

A long-serving federal judge may have committed an impeachable offense, Professor Arthur D. Hellman told a Congressional investigating committee, but the House should not proceed with impeachment at this time.Professor Hellman testified on September 21 at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee on H. Res. 916, “Impeaching Manuel L. Real, judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, for high crimes and misdemeanors.” In his written statement, Professor Hellman said:

According to the public record, the essence of the alleged misconduct is that Judge Real received an ex parte communication from a litigant and, based on that communication, engaged in “a raw exercise of power” that caused serious harm to that litigant’s adversary. In my view, the accusations against Judge Real, if substantiated, could provide an adequate basis for impeachment and removal from office. However, a Special Committee has been appointed – belatedly – under Chapter 16 of the Judicial Code to investigate the alleged misconduct. I believe that the preferable course of action for the House (and this Subcommittee as its agent) is to suspend proceedings on H. Res. 916 until the Special Committee has completed its work and the Judicial Council and/or the Judicial Conference of the United States have acted upon its report. If the investigation by the Special Committee substantiates the allegations of misconduct against Judge Real, but the Judicial Council and the Judicial Conference fail to impose suitable punishment, the House will be able to proceed with impeachment on a much stronger footing than it could do today.

The full text of Professor Hellman’s statement can be found at: coverage can be found in the Los Angeles Times (free registration required) and the Legal Times.  

A video webcast of the hearing is available at