The Volokh Conspiracy

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There Will Be No Late Impeachment of Governor Andrew Cuomo

NY Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says impeachment is not possible once the Governor leaves office.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning after the state Attorney General concluded the Governor had sexually harassed multiple current and former state employees. As Governor, Cuomo also adopted Covid-19 policies that dramatically increased nursing home deaths, and then sought to cover up the administration's culpability, prompting an FBI investigation.

Had Cuomo not resigned, he might well have been impeached by the New York legislature. Now that he's leaving office before the month is out, however, the impeachment plans have been put on hold.

While some argued the impeachment process should continue, New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has concluded that such a "late impeachment" is not allowed under the New York Constitution, and thus the inquiry will end on August 25, after Cuomo leaves office.

Speaker Heastie released a brief legal memo explaining the basis for this conclusion. It begins by noting the difference between the language concerning impeachment in the New York Constitution with that in the U.S. Constitution.

Unlike the language used in the United States Constitution, section 24 of Article VI of the New York State Constitution expressly states that "[j]udgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification" from future public office. Disqualification is thus expressly linked to removal, and the language does not seem to contemplate an impeachment or trial when removal from office is not the central determination. This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that, in New York State, no trial on an article of impeachment has proceeded after the official in question has resigned. Therefore, if an official resigns his or her public office at any point before conviction after trial in the Court for the Trial of Impeachments, the Court would lose its jurisdiction to rule in the matter, as it may only render a judgment that removes an official from office.

I am not an expert on New York law (far from it), but this seems like a plausible conclusion, and one that is not at all inconsistent with a belief that late impeachment is allowed under the U.S. Constitution.