The Missouri Capitol Building is bathed in red,white and blue lights as the inaguration party for new Governor Eric Greitens is about to begin in Jefferson City, Missouri on January 9, 2017.

(Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

AP: The Who, What, When and How of Impeaching a Governor

The impeachment process can occur no matter whether the official has been charged and convicted of a crime.

May 04, 2018 - 4:10 pm

By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers are to meet in a special session starting May 18 to consider whether to initiate impeachment proceedings against Republican Gov. Eric Greitens to try to remove him from office.

That comes as Greitens faces felony charges in two cases. One charge accuses him of taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman in 2015. The other accuses him of disclosing a donor list of The Mission Continues to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans' charity that he had founded. Greitens has acknowledged having an extramarital affair but has denied criminal wrongdoing.


The impeachment process is separate from the criminal proceedings. It is a means of attempting to remove an elected official from office. First, the House of Representatives passes articles of impeachment. Then a panel of judges conducts a trial on the impeachment charge. If convicted, the elected official is removed from office. The impeachment process can occur no matter whether the official has been charged and convicted of a crime.


The Missouri Constitution sets forth several grounds for impeachment: "crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office."


House rules say that articles of impeachment can be introduced only by a committee that the House speaker has designated to investigate the matter. A majority vote of the House — 82 of the 163 seats — is needed to approve impeachment articles. That's the same amount needed to pass legislation.


If the House impeaches a governor, the Senate then chooses a special commission of seven circuit or appellate court judges to hear the case. The commission is to meet in Jefferson City within 30 days. It shall summon the accused to answer the impeachment charge, provide reasonable time to do so and schedule a trial. The case can proceed even if the accused declines to appear or respond to the articles of impeachment.


The judicial commission is to follow the rules of evidence used in civil court cases, not criminal ones. Civil cases require a lower standard of proof for verdicts. Civil cases typically must be proven by a "preponderance of the evidence" instead of "beyond a reasonable doubt" as in criminal cases. At least five of the seven judges must agree to convict someone of impeachment charges.


In 1994, Democratic Secretary of State Judi Moriarty was impeached and ousted from office for backdating her son's candidacy filing papers for a state House seat. The impeachment process occurred after she had been convicted in a criminal case but before her appeal and sentence had been finalized. The impeachment trial was conducted by the state Supreme Court, which hears cases involving any executive official except the governor. Moriarty is the only Missouri official ever ousted from office following impeachment.


Eight governors in other states have been ousted from office following impeachment. The most recent was Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was removed in 2009 after federal authorities accused him of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama was elected president. Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham was removed from office in 1988 after he was convicted of trying to thwart an investigation into a death threat allegedly made by an aide. Others convicted in impeachment trials include Oklahoma Govs. Henry Johnston in 1929 and John Walton in 1923, Texas Gov. James Ferguson in 1917, New York Gov. William Sulzer in 1913, and Nebraska Gov. David Butler and North Carolina Gov. William Holden, both in 1871.