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19 December 2019

Bar president urges senators to protect 'sacred' constitution with impartial Trump trial

New York State Bar president delivers passionate call for senators not to be partisan during historic impeachment trial

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has called on senators to uphold the rule of law by conducting an impartial trial of Donald Trump following the House of Representative’s historic vote to impeach the US president yesterday (18 December). In a statement, NYSBA president Hank Greenberg warned senators not to render the constitution’s impeachment provisions ‘meaningless’ by acquitting Trump against the evidence.

“At stake is the rule of law itself, which is the foundation of America,” he said. “If the evidence shows that President Trump committed an impeachable offence, senators should vote to remove him from office. If the evidence is insufficient, the president should be acquitted.

“If Senators cast their votes based on partisanship or political bias, they will have violated their oaths and rendered meaningless the constitution’s impeachment provisions.”

He concluded: “The rule of law is our sacred inheritance. For the sake of future generations, we must demand the Senate give the full measure of devotion to our founding principles.”

Although the majority Republicans are expected to vote against the impeachment as a political block, a number of constitutional lawyers and legal experts have echoed the call for impartiality by the NYSBA, which is the largest voluntary bar association in the US with around 75,000 members and an annual budget of $24m.

‘It is critical that every senator take seriously his or her oath to do “impartial justice” and to refrain from... petty and extreme partisanship,’ Van Ness Feldman senior counsel James Ziglar, who served as the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, wrote in a client briefing.

Meanwhile, attention is moving to the precise mechanics of the Senate trial.

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr partner Jeffrey Robbins, former chief counsel for the minority Democrats for the Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations, told the National Law Review he expected one or more members of the House of Representatives to prosecute the case.

He added: ‘As for the role of the Supreme Court, it is the Chief Justice [John Roberts] who presides over the trial, per the constitution, and it is he who will be involved in those proceedings, and not the full court—at least this has not occurred in our limited experience with impeachment.’

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