In the avalanche of publicity about Ford's career, there's been little mention of his unsuccessful effort to initiate impeachment proceedings against liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas back in 1970. Unfortunately for this effort, Douglas had not engaged in any misconduct that might justify his impeachment. That didn't matter to Jerry Ford, who famously stated on the floor of the House: "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers (it) to be at a given moment in history." This sentiment was echoed some years later when Richard Nixon's stated: "Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."
Such flexible (and once laughable) views on the rule of law have come to define our jurisprudence in the era of Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales.
Only one justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has ever been impeached: Samuel Chase, in 1804. He was acquitted in the Senate in 1805.
GRAPHIC: Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980)