Yes, states have their own impeachment process. Here’s how it works in Utah.

Jan 26, 2021, 4:25 PM | Updated: 4:39 pm
A one-year prison sentence for a Utah nurse whose foster child died in her care is being criticized...
A one-year prison sentence for a Utah nurse whose foster child died in her care is being criticized as too lenient. Attorney General Sean Reyes is calling the judge’s decision “beyond disappointing.” (PHOTO: Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)
(PHOTO: Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — While former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial gears up to start next month in the US Senate, a Utah Democratic lawmaker seeks to begin the impeachment of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, opened a bill file on Tuesday to impeach Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes.

Reyes “has worked shamelessly over the past few months to undermine our country’s election results,” and “put  the aims of special interest groups above the voters who elected him,” a statement by Stoddard read. “As an attorney and a public officer, [Reyes] has violated his duty to the state. He has put the aims of special interest groups above the voters who elected him.”

Stoddard’s bill to impeach Reyes is unlikely to gain much traction in the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature.

Listen to Stoddard’s interview with Dave & Dujanovic below: 

“I’m afraid I would describe this in maybe one or two really short words, and they probably shouldn’t be in print,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, the Utah Senate budget chairman, according to Deseret News.

Reyes’ office initially declined KSL NewsRadio’s request for comment, but he responded with a statement later in the day defending his involvement in the election lawsuits, and denying any participation in violence. 

How impeachment works in Utah

Just like the U.S. Constitution provides a method for removing someone from office, Utah code provides similar options to the state legislature regarding state officials. 

When the legislature is not already in session, it would take two-thirds of the Utah House to vote to convene an impeachment session. However, as the 2021 legislative session continues, Stoddard’s bill does not require calling a special session. 

Much like at the federal level, the House of Representatives holds the power of impeachment; the Senate would hold a trial, should one prove necessary. It takes a two-thirds vote in the House to impeach a public official; the Senate must reach a two-thirds vote to convict. 

Who can be impeached? What for? 

According to Utah law, “The governor and other state and judicial officers shall be liable to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors or malfeasance in office.” 

The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” may sound familiar to anyone following federal impeachment proceedings — the U.S. Constitution holds that same phrase, along with treason and bribery, as grounds for impeachment of a president, vice president or other federal “civil officer.” 

But what are high crimes and misdemeanors? Scholars have disagreed over time about what the Framers of the Constitution meant by the phrase. They debated the grounds for impeachment of a president; an early version included the phrase “Treason, Bribery or Corruption,” before George Mason suggested adding “other high crimes and misdemeanors,” which made it into the final document. 

Utah’s Constitution, about 110 years younger than its federal cousin, was drafted and ratified in 1895, ahead of the admission of Utah to the states. While many parts of it are modeled after the U.S. Constitution, it included some — at the time — radical deviations, such as granting women the right to vote. 

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Yes, states have their own impeachment process. Here’s how it works in Utah.