Under the Constitution, the sole disciplining authority of all impeachable officers, including Justices of this Court, is Congress. Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution provides that, “The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.” Likewise, Section 3(6) of the same Article provides that, “The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide cases of impeachment.” These provisions constitute Congress as the exclusive authority to discipline all impeachable officers for any impeachable offense, including “betrayal of public trust,” a “catchall phrase”2 to cover any misconduct involving breach of public trust by an impeachable officer.
While impeachment is often described as a political process, it also functions as the equivalent of administrative disciplinary proceedings against impeachable officers. Impeachable officers are not subject to administrative disciplinary proceedings either by the Executive or Judicial branch, in the same manner that non-impeachable officers are subject. Thus, impeachment by Congress takes the place of administrative disciplinary proceedings against impeachable officers as there is no other authority that can administratively discipline impeachable officers.3 Removal from office and disqualification to hold public office,4 which is the penalty for an impeachable offense,5 is also the most severe penalty that can be imposed in administrative disciplinary proceedings.
Impeachment is not a criminal proceeding because conviction in an impeachment complaint is not a bar to criminal prosecution for the same act.6 An impeachable offense, like betrayal of public trust, may not even constitute a criminal act. Like in an administrative proceeding, proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required for conviction in impeachment. If an impeachable officer is charged of a crime, as distinguished from an administrative charge, the proper court has jurisdiction to try such impeachable officer because the proceeding is criminal, not administrative. However, neither the conviction nor acquittal of such impeachable officer in the criminal case constitutes a bar to his subsequent impeachment by Congress. There is no double jeopardy because impeachment is not a criminal proceeding.7