Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
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.


Is Nixon's claim -- that Senate Rule XI violates the Impeachment Trial Clause -- justiciable, i.e., appropriate for judicial resolution?

Decision: 9 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 3, Paragraph 6

No. A unanimous Court held that the question of whether or not the Senate rule violated the U.S. Constitution was nonjusticiable since the Impeachment clause expressly granted that the "Senate shall have sole Power to try any impeachments." The clause laid out specific regulations that were to be followed and as long as those guidelines were observed the courts would not rule upon the validity of other Senate procedures regarding impeachments. Chief Justice William Rehnquist observed that while the Supreme Court was the "ultimate intrepreter of the Constitution," a matter would be deemed nonjusticiable when there was "a constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department."

Cite this Page
NIXON v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 30 August 2015. <>.
NIXON v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 30, 2015).
"NIXON v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 30, 2015,