Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Monday, April 2, 2001

State Constitution
vague on impeachment
of governor

Question: Can Gov. Cayetano be impeached if there is no public education in the state of Hawaii because all the educators are on strike? He had years to find the money to support all aspects of education, but now he's saying there is no money for educators. It's a poor excuse, and it sure seems like dereliction of duty on his part.

Answer: It's unlikely that he would be impeached for anything short of an obvious crime.

Article III, Section 19 of the state Constitution deals with the impeachment of the governor, lieutenant governor and any appointive officer whose removal from office requires the consent of the state Senate.

That section does not specifically state what an impeachable offense is, saying only those officials "may be removed from office upon conviction of impeachment for such causes as may be provided by law."

The rest of the section says:

"The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment of the governor and lieutenant governor and the Senate the sole power to try such impeachments, and no such officer shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the Senate. When sitting for that purpose, the members of the Senate shall be on oath or affirmation and the chief justice shall preside."

University of Hawaii law professor Jon Van Dyke says the U.S. Constitution is relatively vague on the subject of impeaching the president, but it at least states that the president can be removed from office for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Van Dyke says he can't find any state law that articulates any cause for gubernatorial impeachment.

If there isn't one, he said, the question is, would there have to be such a law to deal with a specific situation, or would one have to be passed to lay out the parameters for impeachment?

The Legislature might decide it could come up with a cause, "and perhaps that would be true, but we don't have any precedence," Van Dyke said.

In the event a chief executive committed an obvious crime, wouldn't the criminal justice system simply kick in at that point?

The governor would not be immune from prosecution, but the fact is, no one wants to have the governor jailed while still in office, Van Dyke said.

The rest of the Article III, Section 19 of the Constitution says, "Judgments in cases of impeachment shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the State; but the person convicted may nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment as provided by law."


To the person at the jury pool office for her rude reply to my inquiry regarding summons of jury service. She should be patient and trained in her response toward a slow learner like myself. -- No Name

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