James H. Peck

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James H. Peck.

James Hawkins Peck (January 12, 1790 – April 29, 1836) was a son of Revolutionary Soldier Adam Peck and his wife Elizabeth Sharkey Peck. He was a United States federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of Missouri. He was the third Judicial officer on whom the United States House of Representatives has passed Articles of Impeachment, though he was acquitted by the United States Senate.

Career[edit]

Born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, Peck served in the United States Army during the War of 1812. He later began a private practice in Tennessee until 1818, and in St. Louis, Missouri from 1818 to 1822. On March 29, 1822, Peck was nominated by President James Monroe to a new seat on the United States District Court for the District of Missouri created by 3 Stat. 653. He was confirmed by the United States Senate On April 5, 1822, and received his commission the same day.

Peck was involved in several land claim cases arising out of the Louisiana territory purchase; in one such case in 1825 he ruled against the client of the lawyer Luke Lawless and published his opinion in a St. Louis newspaper the following year. In response, Lawless posted an anonymous letter rebutting Peck's ruling in another newspaper. The authorship of the letter soon became known and Peck found Lawless in contempt of Court for:

Intent to impair the public confidence in the upright intentions of said court, and to bring odium upon the court, and especially with intent to impress the public mind, and particularly many litigants in this court, that they are not to expect justice in the cases now pending therein.

Peck had Lawless placed in jail for 24 hours and removed his right to practice in a federal court for 18 months. Lawless began a crusade against Peck, which included submitting his own memorial for impeachment to the House. This memorial resulted in Impeachment charges before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Impeachment and acquittal[edit]

He was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 24, 1830 on a charge of abuse of the contempt power. The U.S. Senate began the trial of Peck on 26 April 1830 and acquitted him of the charge on January 1, 1831, with 21 votes for removal and 22 votes against. [1] He remained on the bench until his death, in 1836, in Saint Charles, Missouri.

References[edit]

  1. ^ history of Peck's impeachment initiation and results, as well as the text of the memorial submitted, available from the U.S. Government Printing Office

Sources[edit]