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Impeachment Trial of Judge Seth Chapman

In 1826, Seth Chapman, president judge of the eighth judicial district of Pennsylvania was impeached. The articles charged an illegal arrest without any verified complaint; a violation of a statute by the issue of a writ of certiorari to set aside a judgment of a justice of the peace more than twenty days after it was rendered; a refusal to file an opinion and his charge to the jury in a case which the unsuccessful party desired to review by writ of error; and the exercise of undue partiality and favoritism by his rulings on the admission of evidence and his charge to the jury in two cases. He was acquitted by a unanimous vote on two of the charges and by a large majority in favor of the respondent on the remainder.

[Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Historical and Juridical by Roger Foster, Volume 1, 1896, Page 666 - State Impeachment Trials]


The first president judge of the Eighth Judicial District was Thomas Cooper, who was transferred from the Fourth District on the establishment of the Eighth District. He served from 1806 until 1811, when he was impeached and removed from office. An account of his impeachment and a sketch of his life will be found in a preceding chapter.

His successor was Seth Chapman, who was born in Bucks county on January 23, 1779, and admitted to the bar of that county in 1791. Nothing is known of his early career. He was commissioned president judge of the Eighth Judicial District on July 11, 1811, and served until 1833. when he resigned. A petition for his impeachment and removal was filed in 1826, and other petitions in 1830 and 1833. In the year last named a committee of the Senate to which the petitions had been referred recommended his removal, owing to age and bodily infirmities, and on their communicating their opinion to him he resigned. He lived at Northumberland and died there on December 4, 1835.

[Courts and Lawyers of Pennsylvania 1623-1923 by Frank M. Easton, Volume II, 1922, page 648]


News Articles Concerning the Trial

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Feb 15, 1826

Harrisburg, Feb. 11.

Mr. Wise on behalf of the managers for the commonwealth opened the prosecution against Judge Chapman yesterday morning.


Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Feb 22, 1826

Judge Chapman's trial progresses before the Senate. Upwards of thirty witnesses are or have been in attendance. On Thursday last, Mr. Wife, one of the managers on the part of the House of Representatives, the case before the senate, And witnesses were called and examined. It is probable that the examination of witnesses will be completed by Wednesday. Very little interest is taken by the public at large in this proceeding: because, we presume it is taken for granted that the Judge will be acquitted. A Stranger visiting the Seat of Government and listening to the general topics of conversation would hardly believe that a President Judge was on his trial before the senate of Pennsylvania for high crimes and misdemeanors. - Chronicle.

Harrisburg, Feb. 18

The examination of the witnesses in Judge Chapman's case was finished on Thursday evening last. The speeches of the Counsel and of the Managers of the prosecution will in all probability be concluded early enough for a decision from the Court this evening.

The bill reported by Mr. Roberts and entitled "An act to give effect to the provisions of the constitution of the United States, relative to fugitives from labor, for the protection of free people of color and to prevent kidnapping," passed the House of Representatives on Thursday morning by a vote of 44 to 39. - Oracle.


Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) March 1, 1826

Harrisburg, Feb. 21.

On Saturday last the trial of Judge Chapman terminated in his acquittal of the charges preferred against him, viz. On the first and second articles there was a unanimous vote of not guilty. On the third Messrs. Mann, Herbert, Power, Pitscher, St. Clair and Winter, guilty; the rest not guilty. On the first specification of the fourth article, Messrs. Herbert, Power, Ritscher, St. Clair and Winter, guilty; 26 not guilty. On the second specification Messrs. Herbert and St. Clair, guilty; 26 not guilty.


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