Impeachment of state judges: OK- impeachment for court decision, PA- impeachment for judicial misconduct

Threats to impeach state judges have ramped up in the last month, but for two very different reasons.

The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee in late June unanimously approved HR 389, a resolution authorizing an impeachment investigation into Magisterial District Judge Kelly S. Ballentine. Judge Ballentine is facing criminal and judicial ethics charges that she fixed parking tickets issued against her (for which she was suspended from office) as well as other charges of misconduct related to her (unlicensed) shoe store and accusations she failed to pay sale taxes.

This marks the second time in two years the House has considered judicial impeachment. In 2013 a resolution (HR 159) would have impeached Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin for her criminal wrongdoing in in using state employees to help in political campaigns. Melvin was later convicted and forced to resign her office.

On the other side of the spectrum of impeachment threats were efforts lodged by the Oklahoma legislature after that state’s top civil court (Supreme Court) ruled that a Ten Commandments market placed on state Capitol grounds violated the Oklahoma constitution (h/t Gravel Grab for the articles). This marks the second attempt in as many years to impeach justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In 2014 the House considered impeachment after the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution order in a death penalty case, one that the state’s governor refused to acknowledge (discussed here).