Nixon v. United States Case Brief

Facts of the case

Walter Nixon, a Federal District Judge, was convicted of a felony, making false statements to a grand jury. The House of Representatives voted three articles of impeachment impeachment in the Senate followed. In accordance with Senate Rule XI, a Senate committee heard the evidence and reported its findings. The full Senate convicted Nixon and sought to remove him from office. Nixon challenged Senate Rule XI in federal court on the ground that the rule violated the impeachment clause of the Constitution, which declares that the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.The lower courts deemed the issue nonjusticiable and declined to intervene in the dispute.


It was held that the judge’s claim was nonjusticiable, because (1) the use of the word tryin the impeachment trial clause lacked sufficient precision to afford any judicially manageable standard of review of the Senate’s actions, and such word did not provide an identifiable textual limit on the authority which was committed to the Senate (2) the commonsense meaning of the word solein the impeachment trial clause was that the Senate alone had the authority to determine whether an individual should be acquitted or convicted (3) an interpretation of the word soleunder which the Senate–but not a Senate committee–could try impeachments would bring into judicial purview other similar claims based on the conclusion that the word Senatehas imposed by implication limitations on procedures which the Senate might adopt, and such limitations would be inconsistent with the construction of the impeachment trial clause as a whole (4) the history and contemporary understanding of the Constitution’s impeachment provisions supported such reading of the impeachment trial clause (5) judicial involvement in impeachment proceedings, even if only for purposes of judicial review, was counterintuitive (6) to allow judicial review of Senate impeachment procedures would expose the political life of the country to months or years of chaos (7) it was uncertain what relief a court could give in such a case other than simply setting aside the judgment of conviction and (8) there was no separate constitutional provision which would be defeated by allowing the Senate final authority to determine the meaning of the word try.

  • Advocates: Kenneth W. Starr Argued the cause for the respondents David Overlock Stewart Argued the cause for the petitioner David O. Stewart for petitioner
  • Petitioner: Nixon
  • Respondent: United States
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: Office of Walter Nixon, Souther District Court of MS
Citation: 506 US 224 (1993)
Argued: Oct 14, 1992
Decided: Jan 13, 1993
Nixon v. United States Case Brief