Fearnow, Modisett sign lawyers letter refuting McConnell on impeachment trial

Two prominent Hoosiers have joined hundreds of attorneys who have signed a letter condemning Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handling of a possible impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

In its Open Letter to the United States Senate, the group Lawyers Defending American Democracy challenges McConnell’s statements including ,“This [impeachment] is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it,” and his claim that he is under no obligation to serve as an impartial juror in any such proceeding.

Indiana signers to the letter include former Democratic Attorney General and Marion County Prosecutor Jeff Modisett, and Randall Fearnow, who served as Indiana Senate Republican majority attorney from 1993-1998.

Fearnow is now a partner in the Chicago office of Quarles & Brady, while Modisett is now a Los Angeles-based senior counsel in the Public Policy and Regulation practice at global law firm giant Dentons.

Among the high-profile attorneys who signed the letter is Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe, who cautioned senators in a press release against “the grave error of arguing that such a trial is a purely political exercise.”

“The oath that the Senate requires every senator to take before being allowed to participate in an impeachment trial demands that they ‘solemnly swear or affirm … in all things appertaining to the trial (to) do impartial justice according to the Constitution and law,’” the letter says.

The signers say McConnell has errantly framed the process as nonjudicial, noting specifically that Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over any impeachment trial under Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution.

“In short, Leader McConnell’s notion that the impeachment process does not have judicial character and implicitly gives him and other senators free rein to conduct the trial as biased political partisans is indefensible,” the letter says. “To the contrary, all senators have a solemn duty to do ‘impartial justice’ in all aspects of the impeachment trial. This includes Leader McConnell.”

Partisan disagreement over the outlines of a potential impeachment trial have resulted in Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. McConnell has vowed a swift trial conducted in consultation with the Trump White House, while Pelosi has said she will not send the articles to the Senate before she is satisfied that a fair trial with witnesses will follow.

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