Abuse of power

Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of "malfeasance in office" or "official misconduct", is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties. Malfeasance in office is often a just cause for removal of an elected official by statute or recall election. Officials who utilize abuse of power are often those who exploit the ability to use corruption in their advantage.[1][2][3]

The king Jie of Xia with a Ji, representing oppression, and sitting on two ladies, symbolizing his abuse of power.

In the United States, abuse of power has been cited in the impeachment of at least five federal officials. Two of these (Judge George English and President Richard Nixon) resigned before their trial in the Senate could take place, and two others were acquitted by the Senate. The trial of President Donald Trump concluded with the president being found not guilty. At the state level, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois was impeached and unanimously removed from office by the Illinois Senate in 2009 for offenses including abuse of power.

Institutional abuseEdit

Institutional abuse is the maltreatment of someone (often children or older adults) by a system of power.[4] This can range from acts similar to home-based child abuse, such as neglect, physical and sexual abuse, to the effects of assistance programs working below acceptable service standards, or relying on harsh or unfair ways to modify behavior.[4]

Impeachment of U.S. officialsEdit

James PeckEdit

Federal Judge James H. Peck was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 on a charge of abuse of power.[5] Peck had jailed a man for contempt of court after the man had publicly criticized him.[5] The U.S. Senate acquitted him in 1831, with 21 voting guilty and 22 voting not guilty.[5][6][7]

Charles SwayneEdit

Federal Judge Charles Swayne was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1904. He was accused of filing false travel vouchers, improper use of private railroad cars, unlawfully imprisoning two attorneys for contempt, and living outside of his district. He was acquitted by the U.S. Senate in 1905. There was little doubt that Swayne was guilty of some of the offenses charged against him. Indeed, his counsel admitted as much, though calling the lapses "inadvertent." The Senate, however, refused to convict Swayne because its members did not believe his actions amounted to "high crimes and misdemeanors".[8]

George EnglishEdit

Federal Judge George W. English was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1926, but resigned before his trial in the U.S. Senate could take place. One of the five articles of impeachment alleged "tyranny and oppression, and abuse of the powers of his office."[9] The House voted to impeach by a vote of 306 to 60, but the charges were dismissed following English's resignation.[10] He had been accused of abusive treatment of attorneys and litigants appearing before him.[10][11][12]

Richard NixonEdit

President Richard Nixon resigned from office after the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve articles of impeachment, but before the full House had a chance to vote on impeachment. Of the three articles of impeachment, Article II charged Nixon with abuse of power, alleging in part that:

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.[13][14]

The article also cited five specific examples of alleged misconduct to substantiate this charge against the president.[15]

The vote on Article II was bipartisan, with 7 of the 17 Republicans joining all 21 Democrats on the committee in approving impeachment of a U.S. president for abuse of power.[15]

Rod BlagojevichEdit

Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois was impeached and removed from office in 2009, on charges of abuse of power and corruption. Blagojevich was accused of several "pay to play" schemes, including attempting "to obtain personal gain ... through the corrupt use" of his authority to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. The Illinois House of Representatives voted 114–1 (with three abstentions) to impeach Blagojevich for abuse of power,[16][17] and the Illinois Senate voted 59–0 to remove him from office.[18]

Donald TrumpEdit

President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 18, 2019. The votes for the charge of abuse of power in the House were 230 in favor, 197 against, and 1 present. Voting in favor were all but three House Democrats and one Independent, and voting against were all House Republicans and two Democrats; representative Tulsi Gabbard voted present.[19][20] During his trial in the Senate on February 5, 2020, he was found not guilty. The votes for acquittal on the charge of abuse of power in the Senate were 48 against (45 Democratic senators, 2 Independent senators, one Republican senator), and 52 in favor (All Republicans). Of the two articles of impeachment, Article I alleges abuse of power.

Other examplesEdit

Lois Lerner/IRSEdit

Lois Lerner used her position as head of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS to deny mainly conservative groups exempt status.

In October 2017, the Trump Administration agreed to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than four hundred conservative nonprofit groups who claimed that they had been discriminated against by the Internal Revenue Service for an undisclosed amount described by plaintiffs' counsel as "very substantial." The Trump Administration also agreed to settle a second lawsuit brought by forty-one conservative organizations with an apology and an admission that subjecting them to "heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays" was wrongful.

These acts by Lois Lerner were performed under the Obama Administration during the Tea Party Movement and the plaintiffs were building a coalition against Democrats.

Joe ArpaioEdit

In February 2010, Judge John Leonardo found that Arpaio "misused the power of his office to target members of the Board of Supervisors for criminal investigation".[21]

In 2008, a federal grand jury began an inquiry of Arpaio for abuse of power, in connection with an FBI investigation.[22][23] On August 31, 2012, the Arizona US Attorney's office announced that it was "closing its investigation into allegations of criminal conduct" by Arpaio, without filing charges.[24]

Arpaio was investigated for politically motivated and "bogus" prosecutions, which a former US Attorney called "utterly unacceptable".[22][23] Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has called Arpaio's "long list" of questionable prosecutions "a reign of terror".[23]

Fa ZhengEdit

Fa Zheng, a Chinese man, was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Shu commandery (蜀郡) and "General Who Spreads Martial Might" (揚武將軍) by Liu Bei. He oversaw administrative affairs in the vicinity of Yi Province's capital Chengdu and served as Liu Bei's chief adviser.[25]

During this period of time, he abused his power by taking personal revenge against those who offended him before and killing them without reason. Some officials approached Zhuge Liang, another of Liu Bei's key advisers, and urged him to report Fa Zheng's lawless behaviour to their lord and take action against him. However, Zhuge Liang replied, "When our lord was in Gong'an (公安), he was wary of Cao Cao's influence in the north and fearful of Sun Quan's presence in the east. Even in home territory he was afraid that Lady Sun might stir up trouble. He was in such a difficult situation at the time that he could neither advance nor retreat. Fa Xiaozhi supported and helped him so much, such that he is now able to fly high and no longer remain under others' influence. How can we stop Fa Zheng from behaving as he wishes?" Zhuge Liang was aware that Liu Bei favoured and trusted Fa Zheng, which was why he refused to intervene in this matter.[26]

Police officersEdit

In dictatorial, corrupt, or weak states, police officers may carry out many criminal acts for the ruling regime with impunity.

Individual officers, or sometimes whole units, can be corrupt or carry out various forms of police misconduct; this occasionally happens in many forces, but can be more common where police pay is very low unless supplemented by bribes.[27] Police officers sometimes act with unwarranted brutality when they overreact to confrontational situations,[28] to extract a confession from a person they may or may not genuinely suspect of being guilty,[29][full citation needed]. Furthermore, in recent studies, it has been shown that the CAP police has been abusing power[citation needed].

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Corruption and abuse of power". www.policeconduct.gov.uk/. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  2. ^ "Vanuatu officials accused of abuse of power amid corruption claims". rnz.co.nz. 2019-02-19. Archived from the original on 2021-02-14. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  3. ^ Gerson, Michael (2019-09-24). "Opposing Trump's corrupt abuse of power is today's form of patriotism". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  4. ^ a b Powers, J. L.; A. Mooney & M. Nunno (1990). "Institutional abuse: A review of the literature". Journal of Child and Youth Care. 4 (6): 81.
  5. ^ a b c "Jonathan Turley, Senate Trials And Factional Disputes: Impeachment As A Madisonian Device, 49 Duke L. J. 1 (1999)". 18 March 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-03-18.
  6. ^ James Hawkins Peck at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  7. ^ "govinfo". govinfo.gov.
  8. ^ "U.S. Senate: Impeachment". senate.gov. Archived from the original on 2010-12-08. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  9. ^ "Impeachment of Judge George W English Dismissed After Resignation". Constitutional Law Reporter. 17 May 2017. Archived from the original on 23 September 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Impeachment Proceedings Not Resulting In Trial" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-01-06. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  11. ^ "JusticeLearning : Articles". 5 October 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-10-05.
  12. ^ "Judge English Quits; House Prosecutors Move To Drop Trial" (PDF). 30 September 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2007-09-30.
  13. ^   This article incorporates public domain material from the Congressional Research Service document: Stephen W. Stathis and David C. Huckabee. "Congressional Resolutions on Presidential Impeachment: A Historical Overview" (PDF). Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  14. ^   This article incorporates public domain material from the United States House of Representatives document: "A History of the Committee on the Judiciary 1813–2006, Section II—Jurisdictions History of the Judiciary Committee: Impeachment" (PDF). Retrieved November 6, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) (H. Doc. 109-153)
  15. ^ a b Naughton, James M. (July 30, 1974). "New Accusation". The New York Times. p. 1. Archived from the original on December 29, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  16. ^ Saulny, Susan (January 9, 2009). "Illinois House Impeaches Governor". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  17. ^ Vote on House Resolution 1671 Archived 2012-06-01 at the Wayback Machine to impeach Gov. Blagojevich.
  18. ^ Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2009, "Impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Has Been Removed From Office" by Ray Long and Rick Pearson Archived January 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Edmondson, Catie (December 18, 2019). "On Historic Impeachment Votes, Three Democrats Cross Party Lines to Vote 'No'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 12, 2020. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  20. ^ Haberkorn, Jennifer; Wire, Sarah D.; Megerian, Chris; O'Toole, Molly (December 18, 2019). "U.S. House impeaches President Trump". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  21. ^ Wingett, Yvonne (2010-02-25). "Supervisor cases collapse". Azcentral.com. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  22. ^ a b "Sources: FBI Investigating Joe Arpaio". KPHO. Oct 30, 2009. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  23. ^ a b c Conder, Chuck (July 10, 2010). "Arizona sheriff under investigation for alleged abuse of power". CNN. Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  24. ^ "Feds close criminal investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio". Fox News. August 31, 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-03-15. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  25. ^ (以正為蜀郡太守、揚武將軍,外統都畿,內為謀主。) Sanguozhi vol. 37.
  26. ^ (一飡之德,睚眦之怨,無不報復,擅殺毀傷己者數人。或謂諸葛亮曰:「法正於蜀郡太縱橫,將軍宜啟主公,抑其威福。」亮荅曰:「主公之在公安也,北畏曹公之彊,東憚孫權之逼,近則懼孫夫人生變於肘腋之下;當斯之時,進退狼跋,法孝直為之輔翼,令翻然翱翔,不可復制,如何禁止法正使不得行其意邪!」初,孫權以妹妻先主,妹才捷剛猛,有諸兄之風,侍婢百餘人,皆親執刀侍立,先主每入,衷心常凜凜;亮又知先主雅愛信正,故言如此。) Sanguozhi vol. 37.
  27. ^ "IPS: DRUGS-MEXICO: Police Caught Between Low Wages, Threats and Bribes". Ipsnews.net. 2007-06-07. Archived from the original on 2010-06-20. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  28. ^ Edwards, Richard (2009-04-17). "Ian Tomlinson G20 protests death: police office faces manslaughter charge". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2010-04-04. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  29. ^ "The police often argue that the tough 'interviewing' of suspects is the best way to extract the truth. But such strategies are exactly the sort to provoke false confessions". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 2012-01-22. Retrieved 2010-05-22.

Further readingEdit