“A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” reads the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Conduct. It is clear on its face that 53 of the judges now sitting in the impeachment trial of President Trump are in gross violation of this code.

Something needs to be done. The Bar Association needs to hold these judges to account. Its more than 350,000 members need to speak out to uphold its mission to “defend liberty and deliver justice.” Likewise, our hundreds of federal judges, bound by a similar code of conduct, should use their authority to impress on the 53 judges the importance of upholding an “honorable judiciary [that] is indispensable to justice in our society.”

Explains the conservative Heritage Foundation, “the requirement that Senators be on Oath or Affirmation in impeachment trials was plainly designed to impress upon them the extreme seriousness of the occasion.” Yet judge Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, intended to violate his oath from the outset, telling reporters in December that he’s “not trying to pretend to be a fair juror.”

Judge Mitch McConnell (R-KY) audaciously announced that he would defer to the White House on matters concerning the conduct of the Senate impeachment trial. He told Fox News, “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”

It’s fair to say that any federal or state judge who so blatantly conspired with the defense counsel would be impeached and removed from office in short order. The ABA should call on Majority Leader McConnell to recuse himself.

Republican Majority Leader McConnell went further, deciding to speak for the entire jury of 100 Senators before the trial even started. He announced in December, “There’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office.”

Imagine the public outrage if a federal judge opened a trial announcing the verdict before the trial commenced. Attorneys in the 2,300 prosecutors’ offices around the nation should be raising their voices in opposition to this miscarriage of justice.

No doubt, the public is outraged. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, large majorities of Americans, including at least 70 percent of Republicans, said senators should “act as impartial jurors” and that they “should allow witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the impeachment charges to testify.” Senator Angus King (I-ME) reported that nearly 100 percent of the calls to his office support calling witnesses.

There are 1.4 million attorneys in the U.S. It’s time for them to uphold the oath to which they swear each time they appear in court, that they “will uphold the Constitution of the United States.” They should heed the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday was celebrated the day before Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Jonathan Perloe is on the Steering Committee of Voter Choice CT, the citizen-led movement to bring Ranked Choice Voting to Connecticut.

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23 Comments

  1. I agree with the author’s sentiment. I could accept the outcome of the impeachment trial — whether acquittal or conviction — if I were convinced that the senators sitting in judgment of Trump were actually impartial and keeping an open mind until all the evidence — all the evidence — was in. Unfortunately, that is not the case here, as more than a few Republican Senators have made abundantly clear. (And if the evidence were truly insufficient to convict, I would expect Democratic senators to acquit.) But the American Bar Association has no jurisdiction over US Senators… not even over those who are actually lawyers (many are not). The ABA is not a disciplinary agency. Theoretically, perhaps, any state’s lawyer disciplinary agency could do something about their own senator’s violation of an oath. Realistically, I doubt any such thing could happen. The only real accountability will be at the voting booth.

    1. theoretically any state Bar Association could disbar a Senator who was a lawyer with an active licence. But as you say – not gonna happen.

      1. Just for clarification: The Bar Association (American or state) is a nonprofit member service organization. It is not the body that licenses attorneys to practice law. In Connecticut, that body is the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee. The Association is also not a disciplinary body. In Connecticut, that would be the Statewide Bar Counsel and Statewide Grievance Committee.

      2. sorry, I thought it operated like medicine, where the state licencing board essentially rubber-stamps whatever the medical association decides.

      3. Sorry, but it’s the same with medicine. The AMA and Connecticut State Medical Society are both membership organizations. Discipline and licensing of physicians is the responsibility of the Connecticut Medical Examining Board which is under the auspices of the Department of Public Health.

    2. And yet you are somehow convinced that there is no political motive to the actions of the House of Representatives. Go figure.

      1. Could you please point to any comment of mine where I said such a thing? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

        In the meantime… I am very aware that a number of Democrats have been calling for Trump’s impeachment since before he was even sworn in. That’s patently ridiculous and clearly rabidly partisan. On the other hand… what was the House supposed to do in the face of a complaint referred to it from a whistleblower who had credible information? (And whose credible information was corroborated, by the way.) Would it not have been dereliction of duty and a violation of their oaths of office to do nothing? What would you have preferred the House do, and would you have felt the same way if the President were a Democrat instead of Republican? My answer would be the same either way, and I look forward to reading yours.

  2. This is complete partisan nonsense. As if dems has not already decided to Trump’s guilt prior to this garbage spectacle. I strongly suggest you all sit back and wait for both sides. There is a seismic event coming

  3. One problem is that, fortunately, every Senator is not a lawyer and thus not accountable to the Bar Association and its ethical requirements. However, many of the Representatives presenting the case and the team defending the President are lawyers actually doing what lawyers do. The should be held accountable by the Bar for any statements they make that are knowingly false. As I understand it, that is part of what the Bar is supposed to hold them accountable for.

  4. No doubt, the public is outraged.

    Outraged that this issue started right after the 2016 election with no basis in fact, and has been a cause in search of a crime ever since.

  5. I think some are misunderstanding my intent. I’m not making a constitutional or legal argument – it’s a moral/ethical argument.

    I’m suggesting that an organization that has a code of conduct that states “A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” AND that has 350,000 members could use its voice to compel the Senators to act in accordance to its code. I’m talking about the power of authority, not the authority of power.

    And before someone remarks, “they aren’t judges,” Senators sitting in the trial have been referred to as judges numerous times – because they, as the Constitution says, sit in “Judgment in Cases of Impeachments.”

    500 legal scholars used their voices to declare that Trump committed an impeachable offense. Perhaps 350,000 lawyers, some of whom might be Republicans, will have more weight than 500 legal scholars. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/06/politics/legal-scholars-letter-trump-impeachment/index.html

    One commenter who dismissed my suggestion remarked the ABA is a “stalwart defender of the rule of law.” Is there anything more important when it comes to the rule of law than defending the constitution?

    As the House managers have said numerous times, this isn’t just about Trump, who hopefully will be removed by voters if not by Senators. It’s about defending our Constitution from this egregious abuse of power, that will set the precedent for every other president to follow.

    1. Hi Jonathan, thank you for the comment (and the Viewpoints submission!) but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

      1. It has been suggested to me to go use lettercount.com, which is the standard used, to ensure not being over the limit. I will do this from now on. And people should be aware that the character count includes spaces between words.

  6. The ABA should be asked to put this question up for debate at their next annual meeting. Even if no one is disbarred, It might make for a most interesting discussion. But to equate Senators in an impeachment hearing to Judges may be incorrect to start with. Actually, they act more like members of a JURY. And the standards that apply to a member of a JURY are quite different to those that apply to a judge, even if, in both cases, impartiality and lack of pre-conceived opinion is the goal. Specifically, no lawyer has ever risked losing his or her license for having acted prejudicially in a jury.

  7. So you’re saying you want the president removed from office and you want 53 Republican senators removed from their professions as well.

  8. “It is clear on its face that 53 of the judges now sitting in the impeachment trial of President Trump are in gross violation of this code.”

    To borrow from the iconic Groucho Marx, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.” The author apparently believes that the Democrat Senators (not to mention the House Democrats) are completely unbiased.

    I shouldn’t be surprised, though. The author is a Board member of an anti-2A group as well as a promoter of the National Popular Vote Compact. That group wants to deprive States of casting their Electoral Votes for their voters’ choice for POTUS, based on results from other States. Their ultimate goal is the elimination of the Electoral College. He has other radical agenda items but I’m limited by characters.

    1. Yes indeed. Thanks to Mr. Perloe and others of his ilk, our votes for Presidential candidates who don’t win the popular vote have been rendered meaningless. It makes my blood boil to think that the electoral college has been snatched from us in Connecticut as blue states destroy another pillar of our country. Thanks for nothing.

      1. The Electoral College has not “been snatched” yet, and I’m still hoping that common sense and respect for how the founders set up our government will prevail.

      2. The Electoral College has not “been snatched” yet, and I’m still hoping that common sense and respect for how the founders set up our government will prevail.

  9. So if the Republicans don’t agree with the author they should be debarred. Sounds like somebody has already made up their mind with only half of the trial over. Isn’t that what he is accusing the Republicans of doing?

  10. I guess with the title of this oped we will no longer have a senate. It’s both parties buddy. Not just one you don’t like.

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