Due Process

Whether It's John Conyers or Bad Cops, Due Process Isn't Meant to Protect Government Officials

Due process is supposed to protect you from government abuse, not protect government abuse.



House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is an "icon" who is "entitled to due process" before facing consequences over accusations by multiple female staffers of sexual misconduct.

Conyers is currently the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation stemming from revelations that he settled a sexual harassment claim with taxpayer money and other the sexual misconduct allegations.

Pelosi's appeal to due process mirrors the argument made by police brutality apologists, who insist that bad police officers cannot face any consequences absent a criminal conviction and/or an administrative review process where they have ample opportunity to appeal.

Pelosi confuses (deliberately or not) the right to due process before government with government's ability to manage personnel and hold its own officials and representatives accountable.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on various settlements involving members of the House, information that is concealed from the public and even from House leadership. Such secrecy has nothing to do with due process.

Like the secrecy surrounding many of the problems with policing, it only reinforces the notion that membership in the House is a privilege that grants access to taxpayer money and the other powers of government.

This is not Conyers' first House Ethics Committee investigation. He has previously been accused by staffers of forcing them to babysit his children and to participate in various political campaigns.

The committee decided that a public statement from them and an "agreement by Representative Conyers to take a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and personal work by congressional staff" sufficed to close the matter.

It's hard to believe any significant steps were taken given Conyers' continued treatment of staffers as his own personal property.

What's remarkable about the Conyers situation and the defense of him by Democratic colleagues is just how low the stakes are. Conyers represents a heavily Democratic district, and unlike for Senate seats, governors don't appoint replacements for the House. The fact that Michigan has a Republican governor is irrelevant. The margin of the majority in the House is wider than the Senate. Conyers is 88—there's little he can do that a younger person in his seat couldn't. In a body of 435 members no single member is indispensable.

The hypocrisy is stunning even for national politics. Democrats have spent several years insisting there was a war on women being waged by Republicans as well as pushing private organizations, from contractors to universities, to impose stricter standards on even the appearance of sexual impropriety.

Democrats have also argued consistently that colleges should apply lower standards of proof to discipline (and expel) students accused of sexual misconduct, yet worked to preserve a system where members of Congress had access to taxpayer money to arrive at settlements that permit them to avoid responsibility for misconduct of their own.

Were Conyers a college student, he would have much less protection than he has as one of the most powerful men in Washington. Given the intersection of power dynamics and sexual misconduct, from DC to Hollywood, that's not the way it should be.

But it's also not surprising. Powerful people claiming to speak for the powerless are more than willing to stomp on them to protect one another.

NEXT: Seattle's Income Tax Ruled Illegal

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is an “icon” who is “entitled to due process” before facing consequences over accusations by multiple female staffers of sexual misconduct.

    See how easy it is to give the party and state of politicians in articles? It’s not that hard, rest of the media.

    1. It’s easy for you too, the reader. If an article in the MSM does not mention a sordid politician’s affiliation… guess which party!

      1. My Whole month’s on-line financ-ial gain is $2287. i’m currently ready to fulfill my dreams simply and reside home with my family additionally. I work just for two hours on a daily basis. everybody will use this home profit system by this link………


  2. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on various settlements involving members of the House…

    As a taxpayer I finally get to #MeToo.

  3. “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” Same goes for Caesar.

  4. “What’s remarkable about the Conyers situation and the defense of him by Democratic colleagues is just how low the stakes are.”

    I have a feeling the stakes are more about stemming the tide of future accusation than this one seat. Just like with the police and any other government entity, it’s about protecting the institution. Because once that facade is broken, the whole thing may come crashing down. And, then what’s poor Nancy supposed to do, get a real job?

    1. If she’s out of work how will she afford to buy back that fancy road to her house that got sold?

  5. Due process means he can’t be thrown in jail or otherwise deprived of rights, without trial (for example)

    Being a congressman (or LEO) is not a right. Being fired from your job is not a due process violation.

    1. It’s a legitimate question. You are right, you can be fired for anything. I would also say that politicians should be held to higher standards, not lower. Still, it’s a dangerous road to go down to say that someone should be fired without some amount of deference given to process. Even if they seem guilty as sin.

      1. Still, it’s a dangerous road to go down to say that someone should be fired without some amount of deference given to process. Even if they seem guilty as sin.

        There is a process and they aren’t or wouldn’t be circumventing it and, even if they were, dangerous is hardly the word for it. It’s not like Conyers has his metaphorical or literal finger in the dyke. Presumably, convincing 2/3 of congress would be a greater burden than a jury or similar internal hearing. The invocation of due process in this instance is a specialized lower standard.

        Moreover, it’s not like we’re talking about maybe-sorta allegations and trifling “I’m sorry’s.” like Al Franken perpetrated. He perpetrated the misconduct and paid for them out of taxpayer coffers. If they wanted his head on a pike there should be a trial first. Otherwise, sexual misconduct aside, he and others routinely taxpayer money to cover up their impropriety. A process that itself pushes back against due process.

        1. I agree to some of that. I believe it should effectively be a show trial at this point considering how strong the evidence is against him. And I agree with Pro Libertate said below. My only point is, that there should be some level of procedure to deal with these things rather than just bursts of public opinion.

          1. The flip side could be an issue, too. If there were no real due process, then removal for purely political reasons would occur.

            1. As though he isn’t in the position he’s in for purely political reasons and/or just a burst of public opinion?

              Sounds like an invisible pink due process to me. Especially when, conceptually, the poor-man’s due process we’ve got comes with a system of checks and balances behind it. At 88, he likely won’t be serving anywhere else for pragmatic reasons but legally, nothing prevents him from getting booted from one branch and earning a seat in/on the next branch.

              1. Well, there is recall. Not sure why we don’t have it at the federal level.

                1. I think recall would be better than expulsion by the house or Senate.

                  If the voters want some kind of scumbag in office, that’s their choice. They should be held to high standards, but it’s really up to the voters whether they are or not.

                  1. I don’t agree. At some point, democracy must give way to ethics, etc.

                    1. Well, let me know when we get to that point. I’m not holding my breath.

        2. he and others routinely taxpayer money to cover up their impropriety

          That’s the worst part, really. If voters want to elect some shithead, that’s their problem. But then shithead should clean up his own damn messes.

      2. Congressmen have that already, in spades. We need to make it easier to remove politicians, with reasonable due process but with much higher standards. Should be the case for all government officials.

        1. How about an off-year referendum/approval of congress as a whole? If a nationwide vote tallies less than 50% then all the sitting members are barred from re-election.

      3. It’s up to the judgment of the person or people with firing powers. They should have some kind of standard they follow beyond a mere accusation, or a motivation beyond short-term ass-covering, but these standards will always differ and be open to criticism.

        1. There’s expulsion from Congress. That requires some sort of hearing and a 2/3rds majority vote.

          1. Right. I got the sense that BUCS is talking about firing standards in general, and not just in Congress.

      4. The thing is, at least one accusation against Conyers went through Congress’ version of due process and was settled with taxpayer money. He’s had plenty of due process; Nancy was just defending the perv.

        Agreed that we shouldn’t create a situation where people get destroyed by a jilted lover, but no one seems to be surprised by these allegations.

        1. Conyers jilted Pelosi?

  6. “Pelosi’s appeal to due process mirrors the argument made by police brutality apologists, who insist that bad police officers cannot face any consequences absent a criminal conviction and/or an administrative review process where they have ample opportunity to appeal.”

    Those “arguments” are often simple facts of the police union’s contract.

    If the contract won’t allow a municipality to discipline a member of the police union sans a criminal conviction, then go after the the contract, the union, and the city council that made such a contract possible.

    1. If you were in a profession, where false accusations are constantly made, in an effort to avoid being charged for violating the law, you would want that kind of protection, too.
      The process due, for almost every government position, is some kind of legal judgement of your guilt. For a cop, whose most frequent accusation is one of assault, that would be a criminal conviction, for that offense. Not just some crack-head trying to avoid charges by making an accusation.

  7. “What’s remarkable about the Conyers situation and the defense of him by Democratic colleagues is just how low the stakes are.”

    I think the stakes in the Roy Moore race may be about perceptions as much as anything. Democrats all over the country want to run against Roy Moore’s public image. They’ll use Roy Moore as a villain in a national campaign against sexual abuse in the midterms, and if Moore gets into the Senate, they’ll use him as a focus of the next presidential campaign, too. His symbolic value may be as important to Democrats nationally as anything.

    They may see protecting Conyers from publicly embarrassing them on the issue the same way. It’s hard to be the party of defending women from sexual predators when they’ve got someone under public scrutiny. The only people whose support they’re going to lose over protecting him are people who wouldn’t have voted for them under any circumstances anyway.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats other issues are only targeted to LGBTQI+, radical environmentalists, illegal aliens, and BLM. Why would they want to give up on the one issue they’ve got that might appeal to white, middle class voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania? Other than being the party that protects average women from sexual assault in the workplace, they’ve got bupkis. What else are they going to promise–more ObamaCare?

  8. I don’t totally disagree that due process in these cases sometimes to be serving the opposite of its purpose, but you leave out a really important consideration. The federal government is not a corporation, especially in the sense that there is no single person with hiring and firing power over members of Congress. And more important is that these people are *elected*. We need to have a high standard for removing elected officials and it probably requires something like “due process.”

    1. They aren’t subject to removal without a process that is rarely used. They have too much effing due process, if you ask me.

      I do appreciate the threat that too easy removal could be used for purely political purposes, potentially disenfranchising a state, but we really need to amend the Constitution to make removal much easier.

  9. I live in the Detroit region, and it was interesting discussing this with several connected Detroit Democratic friends the other night. What they found weird was not that Conyers was a jerk, but that he hit on women, since it’s apparently an open secret (at least among those ‘in the know’) that he’s gay, and his weird marriage to Monica was a sham.

    1. Obviously that was all part of his game.

      “Sure lady, sure I’m a big homo and stuff…now get down on your knees and suck my dick.”

      1. It works.

  10. The Democrats simply do not leave one of their own exposed as a piece to sacrifice, ever. Neither is such ever demanded of them. Heck, before the hung jury, the Dems were floating tbe idea that Seb. Menendez should not have to resign even jf he was convicted on bribery charges. Their loyalty is entirely to the Party, and only outlying media will take them.to task on it.

    1. Their loyalty is to the outrage du jour and if that means sacrificing one, or a few, of their own, they’re ok with that. Many a tub of popcorn have I eaten watching and enjoying such shows.

      1. The only ones they are willing to sacrifice are ones like Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, or Charley Rose, because them losing their job doesn’t have any effect on the demoncraps’ legislative position.
        Notice the difference in what they are willing to admit about those three, versus any sitting Congresscritter.

  11. We need to keep our nation’s very precious incumbents in power. Women come second. (Or not at all, for some among us.)

    1. A woman only has herself to blame if she fails to orgasm.

      1. What about men? Sometimes I ejaculate without an orgasm. Is that my fault?

        1. Trickle Dick is a serious medical condition.

  12. It’s hard to believe any significant steps were taken given Conyers’ continued treatment of staffers as his own personal property.

    Did you call Conyers a slave owner, Ed?

  13. I was listening to a discussion in NPR where Cathy Young was one of the guests and another woman said that “microagressions” like looking at a woman’s breasts constitutes the type of harassment that should be looked at as part of an anti-harassment culture.

    There you have it. Stop looking at a woman’s cleavage because she didn’t dress up like that so that you oogle her, even if you weren’t looking.

    1. Breasts are there for looking at. That’s just a biological fact.

    2. What did she dress up like that for?

    3. Women are objectified because of patriarchy, duh … does this halter top go with these booty shorts and these heels?

      1. Uh, no babe. Take off the top and the shorts, but leave the heels on.

    4. On behalf of progressives I apologize for whatever happened to them that made them think that the key to the fight for equality is to be as hypersensitive as possible about the most things.

    5. Wait, I thought congresspersons having dress codes was a no-no? With all the confusion about people not wearing burqas as an undue burden on free speech, I have trouble keeping track.

      I expect CNN’s ratings to plunge further if Congress adopts the TopFreedom ethos.

  14. the guy sounds totally legit. We should give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, he’s a minority and a democrat.

  15. “It’s hard to believe any significant steps were taken given Conyers’ continued treatment of staffers as his own personal property.”

    Anthony Johnson approves.

  16. The analogy used in this article is apples and oranges.

    A police officer under investigation for (apparent) wrongful shooting deserves nothing less than a vigorous due process protection. Otherwise, some BLM sympathizing bureaucrat would fire every police officer who shot a minority suspect. Their situation is no different from Nungesser’s – they don’t deserve to be booted from their institutions on mere allegation.

    If a cop has a pattern of abuse or settlement with accusers, then the police department might have some cause to fire him even without criminal conviction. Not many “police brutality apologists” would be against this. Many conservatives condemned the Tamir Rice shootings.

    If you’re admitting to your guilt by seeking treatment or issuing a non apology apology, then calls for resignation are appropriate. But some people accused of misconduct will deny it, categorically. Congress and the police department aren’t Mcdonalds – if a mob could force people out based on just allegations, we won’t have a functioning government. Due process is an arbiter where both sides get their process at a formal setting, which is why people defer to it. More so, if it involves someone from your team.

    1. If firing a cop made him unemployable this might be an interesting point, but as I understand it, a cop fired in one jurisdiction can always apply in a more “law-enforcement friendly” jurisdiction, especially if the first jurisdiction has a reputation as a hotbed of cop-haters whose judgment of who’s a bad cop is not reliable.

      1. Indeed, cities can advertise themselves as cop-friendly – “we won’t fire you unless you spill coffee on the chief’s box of donuts – come on down!”

    2. “some people accused of misconduct will deny it, categorically”

      What do you mean by “some”? Denial has become the American way. It’s not just a river in Egypt you know?

      Deny, deny, deny. You have nothing to lose and much to be gained. Our political history since about FDR’s time is littered with those who survived by denying.

      Hell, a whole slew of cops from several jurisdictions all beat criminal charges here in the Bay Area after admitting to having sex, sometimes for pay, with an underage prostitute. It’s just mind boggling what they can get away with even after admitting that it actually occurred!

      But for me, the worst part is, seeing no public reaction. We’ve become like the oppressed everywhere who give up, turn on each other and pray nothing will happen to them. All because they are convinced they are powerless to do anything about it.

  17. With a member of the House, due process comes in because expelling a member involves overturning the decision of the voters. The voters can always return the erring member to office in a special election, but the general rule should be for an elected official to serve out his term unless found guilty of misconduct, which in this case mean an Ethics Committee investigation followed by a House debate.

    Thus it’s the voters who are entitled to due process after they elect a person to a fixed term.

    Cops, of course, aren’t elected – they should be accountable to those who are.

    1. True, voters decide who to represent them in some body. But are other representatives of other people required to cooperate with them?

      1. Not always, but fairness to the voters require that before leaving their representation vacant, there be some due process hearing to make sure that this is necessary.

        1. This goes back to John Wilkes (not Booth), voters should have a broad discretion to select their representatives, and barring some serious abuse of power (like is alleged in Conyers’ case), the voters’ wishes should be respected.

          1. That’s why I was bitching about Roy Moore before it was cool, because he wanted Congress to exclude Keith Ellison, a legally-qualified person.

            1. Wilkes and liberty!

              “His electoral battles influenced the framers of the United States Constitution, who wrote articles explicitly spelling out the qualifications for election to offices.”

  18. That’s what the powerless are for. To be used as cannon fodder.

    Anyone who thinks otherwise, hasn’t gotten with the program yet and should be re-educated immediately.

  19. What the hell Reason? Due process is meant to protect EVERYONE: both the powerless AND the powerful. John Conyers deserves his day in court the same as everyone else. That’s the whole point of due process. You have rules and processes around societal punishment so that everyone is treated the same and enjoys a fair experience. That’s the ideal. Sometimes reality falls short of ideals and people are treated unfairly, but instead of insisting that everyone be treated like a debt-ridden college student we should be trying to make sure everyone gets the same treatment our congressmen receive.

  20. Just my perspective: a decent amount of these allegations may be baloney and people in Congress may personally know of past allegations that were baloney so they want to let an investigation take place before passing judgement.

    This crap has been going on in the military since I have been in, baloney sexual assault allegations. It does not happen all the time or even often but enough to make one want to know what actually happened before passing judgement. Even the allegations can ruin a career.

    Reasons why people lie about sexual assault in the military: get out of a deployment, fuck over a boss you hate, jilted lovers, got caught cheating and want to claim you were assaulted instead of cheating, weird people doing weird things, got pregnant on deployment and you are married, etc.

    Let’s just chill out and let the system play out before demanding a scalp.

  21. I doubt the stakes are so low. If Conyers is going down, he might take some non-iconic Dems in not so safe districts with him (and Pelosi knows it).

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.