Editorials

Missouri officials ‘almost have to go to jail to be impeached’ under half-baked bill

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announces his resignation in Jefferson City

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on May 29 announced his resignation just as abruptly as he had arrived on Missouri's political scene, his career buried under an avalanche of scandal and felony charges.
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Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on May 29 announced his resignation just as abruptly as he had arrived on Missouri's political scene, his career buried under an avalanche of scandal and felony charges.

Officials in Missouri want to make it a lot harder to impeach officials in Missouri.

Under a measure that the state Senate just passed, you’d pretty much have to be sent to jail during your term in office to even be subject to impeachment. In which case, it would be kind of a moot point, wouldn’t it? And maybe even the least of your worries.

How convenient for officials in Missouri, who might as well have passed a constitutional amendment outlawing such an ouster altogether.

Now this half-baked amendment goes on to the Missouri House. If it passes there, too, it would be subject to a statewide vote. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.

When the current standard for impeachment was written in 1924, corruption was rampant. Ever since, impeachment in the state could involve not just crimes, but also “misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.”

The proposal that just passed, by a vote of 25-8, would make the only criteria for impeachment “corruption and crime in office.”

But if “turpitude” was a little broad, the new standard is absurdly narrow.

Had it been in effect last year, Gov. Eric Greitens might very well still be in office since he was accused of sexual misconduct and potential campaign finance violations that allegedly occurred before he took office.

If this amendment passed, aspiring pols would just have to get any and all law-breaking wrapped up before their swearing-in.

“Not accounting for things that we learned about prior to that person’s tenure in office doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp. “Greitens is a perfect example.”

The idea predates the Greitens debacle, but that experience does show what a poor one it is.

Republican sponsor Sen. Ed Emery has long wanted to transfer responsibility for impeachment trials from the Missouri Supreme Court to the Senate.

But even he seems to feel he has overshot his mark, saying that under his current proposal, “you almost have to go to jail to be impeached, which I’m not completely satisfied with.”

Emery worked on the measure with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tony Luetkemeyer, whose wife was a lawyer in Greitens’ office. He has argued that the current grounds for impeachment can too easily be used to try to remove a judge from the bench for an unpopular ruling.

But that wouldn’t seem to be much of a danger, given that a judge was last impeached 1968.

Editor’s note: This editorial originally misstated the year the last Missouri judge was impeached.

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