Law professor breaks down impeachment process of a Missouri governor

Published: May. 4, 2018 at 9:23 PM CDT
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"The power to discipline elected officials is the most serious of legislative powers," said Missouri House Speaker, Republican Todd Richardson Thursday night.

Richardson announced a special session will start on May 18th, after a petition gathered signatures from 138 representatives and 29 senators, well over the required three-fourths in each chamber.

"Regretfully, the call of this historic act is for the sole purpose to consider the findings and recommendation of the House committee, including disciplinary actions against Governor Greitens," Richardson said.

So, how would an impeachment of a sitting governor work?

First, Articles of Impeachment would have to be drafted by a member of the house, and then voted on by all representatives.

The governor would then be suspended.

"They would continue formally in office in the sense that they would continue to get salary and benefits, but they essentially would be prevented from performing official functions," said Frank Bowman, Professor of Law at Missouri University.

While suspended, the case would be handed over to seven judges from either the state circuit or appellate courts, nominated by the Senate. Five of those seven would have to agree the charges are enough to remove the governor from office.

"There has never been a trial in front of this special body of judges appointed by the senate," Bowman said. "The interesting question is what their job is supposed to be."

Bowman said it would be up to the judges to determine whether or not they will just take the findings from the House Committee and try it on fact, or if they will call witnesses themselves.

"My best guess is all they will do is they will take whatever the house gives them and they will make a determination about the facts," added Bowman.

Richardson said this wasn't the path he hoped the legislature would have to take.

"We will not avoid doing what is right just because it is hard, or just because it is not the path we hoped to travel."

A big question is whether or not Governor Greitens can be impeached if he is acquitted in his criminal trial in just a few weeks.

Bowman says the answer is yes, because these are two entirely separate entities, and an elected official can be removed because of non-criminal actions.

If removed from office, Greitens would be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson.

Greitens has not given any statement since the legislature's announcement of a special session Thursday.