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California State Senate Chambers. (Photo: Katy Grimes for California Globe)

Frequently Asked Questions about the Impeachment of State Officers

What happens with a Senate conviction?

By Chris Micheli, February 12, 2024 2:30 am

What is the impeachment authority granted to the California Legislature? The California Constitution, like its federal counterpart, allows for the impeachment and removal of state officers by the Legislature.

Which house has the power of impeachment? In Section 18 of Article IV, the Assembly has the sole power of impeachment.

Which house has the power of removal? Impeachments are tried by the Senate.

What is required for a conviction and removal from office? A person may not be convicted unless, by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two thirds of the membership of the Senate concurs.

Which officers are subject to impeachment? State officers elected on a statewide basis, members of the State Board of Equalization, and judges of state courts are subject to impeachment.

What is the basis for impeachment of state officers? It is only for misconduct in office.

What happens with a Senate conviction? It may extend only to removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the State.

Is there potential criminal liability for misconduct in office? Yes, the person convicted or acquitted remains subject to criminal punishment according to law.

Does the Senate act like a court in trying an impeachment? Yes, Government Code Section 3020.5 states that the Senate, when sitting as the court of impeachment, is a court of record and the officers of the Senate are the officers of the court.

What are the requirements for an impeachment to proceed? Government Code Section 3021 specifies that all impeachments must be by resolution adopted, originated in, and conducted by managers elected by the Assembly.

What does the Assembly do with articles of impeachment? Government Code Section 3022 requires that the managers are to prepare articles of impeachment, present them at the bar of the Senate, and prosecute them as the trial is to be before the Senate.

To whom do the articles of impeachment go? Government Code Section 3023 states that, when an officer is impeached by the Assembly for a misdemeanor in office, the articles of impeachment must be delivered to the President of the Senate.

What must the Senate do with the articles of impeachment? Government Code Section 3024 requires the Senate to assign a day for the hearing of the impeachment and inform the Assembly of the date.

How is a state officer notified about the trial? Government Code Section 3025 requires the Senate President to serve the defendant with a copy of the articles of impeachment with a notice to appear and answer at the appointed time and place. Section 3026 requires the service to be made personally upon the defendant.

What happens if the state officer does not appear? Government Code Section 3027 states that, if the defendant does not appear, then the Senate may assign another day for hearing the impeachment or may proceed to trial and judgment in the absence of the defendant.

What rights and responsibilities are imposed on state officers? Government Code Section 3028 provides that, when the defendant appears, then the defendant may object in writing to the sufficiency of the articles of impeachment, or the defendant may answer the articles by an oral plea of not guilty. Section 3029 requires the defendant to answer the articles. If the defendant pleads guilty or refuses to plead, then the Senate must render judgment of conviction against the officer.

What happens if the officer pleads not guilty? Government Code Section 3030 provides, if the defendant pleads not guilty, then the Senate must try the impeachment at the time it appoints. The plea is then entered in the Senate Daily Journal.

What is the oath taken by Senators? Government Code Section 3031 states that the Senate Secretary must administer to all members of the Senate an oath truly and impartially to hear, try, and determine the impeachment. No member of the Senate can act or vote upon the impeachment, or upon any question, without having taken such oath.

What is the vote required of the Senate for a conviction? Government Code Section 3032 specifies that the defendant cannot be convicted on impeachment without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected. If two-thirds of the members elected do not concur in a conviction, then the defendant must be acquitted.

How is a conviction recorded? Government Code Section 3033 states that, after conviction and at the time appointed by the Senate, the Members of the Senate must pronounce judgment in the form of a resolution that is printed in the Senate Daily Journal.

What is the punishment for conviction? Government Code Section 3035 specifies that the judgment may be that the defendant be suspended from office, or that the defendant be removed from office and disqualified to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit in the State.

What happens when the articles of impeachment are presented to the Senate? Government Code Section 3037 notes, whenever articles of impeachment against any officer subject to impeachment are presented to the Senate, the officer is temporarily suspended from his or her office and cannot act in his or her official capacity until he or she is acquitted.

What happens while the officer is suspended? Government Code Section 3038 specifies that, upon temporary suspension of any officer other than the Governor, the office must at once be temporarily filled by an appointment made by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The office is to be filled by the appointee until the acquittal of the party impeached or, in case of his or her removal, until the vacancy is filled at the next election.

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