Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Inherent Contempt

With the Bush administration using commutation of sentences and executive privilege to hide its criminal behavior the question becomes how can you uncover the truth with so much stonewalling. Today Harriet Miers attorney said she will not be showing up tomorrow in response to a Congressional Subpoena, at the orders of the President. Yes you read that right, she will not even show up. Apparently the Bush administration feels they are above the law but Congress has a seldom used tool in their arsenal. That tool is called "Inherent Contempt".

Under this process, the procedure for holding a person in contempt involves only the chamber concerned. Following a contempt citation, the person cited for contempt is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to the floor of the chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subject to punishment that the House may dictate (usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release from the contempt citation.)

Concerned with the time-consuming nature of a contempt proceeding and the inability to extend punishment further than the session of the Congress concerned (under Supreme Court rulings), Congress created a statutory process in 1857. While Congress retains its "inherent contempt" authority and may exercise it at any time, this inherent contempt process was last used by the Senate in 1934, against the Postmaster-General. After a one-week trial in the Senate floor (presided by the Vice-President of the United States, acting as Senate President), the Postmaster-General was found guilty and sentenced to 10 days imprisonment.

The Postmaster General had filed a petition of Habeas Corpus in federal courts to overturn his arrest, but after litigation, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress had acted constitutionally, and denied the petition in the case Jurney v. MacCracken
It is time for Congress to take swift action against these criminals and restore the rule of law to the executive branch of our government. Write and call your representatives and tell them about this seldom used tactic.

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