It began amidst a legislative impeachment inquiry in Connecticut into the conduct of then- Governor John G. Rowland in 2003. Thrust into a spotlight and a specialty that has grown over time was Attorney Ross Garber, hired to defend the office of the Governor.
Fast forward a decade and a half, pick up a copy of Governing magazine, and see a full page photo and accompanying article on the man now described as “a go-to resource for governors facing political peril.” That description, in this month’s issue, follows by just under a year the decision by CNN to hire the Glastonbury resident as an on-air legal analyst.
Garber’s experience with Rowland, which some viewed at the time as a thankless undertaking, has been parlayed into a specialty in which, as GOVERNING describes, “Garber has no real competitors.”
Most recently, Garber represented embattled former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, a decorated Navy SEAL and rising GOP star, who resigned a year ago after a scandal involving a sexual relationship with his hairdresser, claims that he took explicit photographs of her without her consent, and that he misused charity funds.
In between Greitens and Rowland, Garber has also represented Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina when they faced investigations or impeachments. All are Republicans and all ended up stepping down - except Sanford, who limped through the remainder of his term, as Governing described it.
Garber, a longtme partner at Shipman & Goodwin, in Washington and Hartford, was co-chair of the firm’s Government Investigations and White Collar Crime Group. He now heads Garber Group LLC. For the past two years, Garber has taught a course on Political investigations and Impeachment at Tulane University Law School. He is described in GOVERNING as “the man governors call when they face threats of impeachment.”
A graduate of UConn (undergraduate and law degrees), in 2002, he was the Republican candidate for State Treasurer, losing to incumbent Denise Nappier by just under 138,000 votes. In 2008, he was recommended by Rowland’s successor, Gov. M. Jodi Rell, to be U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, but was not selected for the post by President George W. Bush. He sought the Republican nomination for Connecticut attorney general in 2010, but lost handily in a statewide Republican primary. Last year, he was hired to represent a long-serving Connecticut Senate staffer fired after admitting he had taken money without authorization from a campaign fund.
In the Governing article, Garber explains that all governors at some point do things that the people around them advised them not to do -- especially staff lawyers, who are always telling elected officials why they can’t do things. After that happens enough times, it triggers a tendency among some governors to think they know best, which isn’t always the case once they’re entering into uncharted waters. “When you’re going through an investigation that’s incredibly serious,” Garber says, “it’s hard to maintain the same good instincts that you have when you’re dealing with political issues.”
In a recent essay published in Cato Unbound focused on the possibility of impeachment proceedings aimed at President Donald Trump, Garber warned that impeachment is immensely disruptive to the normal function of governing, interferes with the normal balance of powers, is antithetical to the American democratic process, creates uncertainty which could affect American foreign policy and the financial markets, and there are usually other, less violent remedies than impeachment.
“Given the stakes, it is simply not realistic to expect a White House facing an existential threat to not be distracted from matters of policy. The same can be said for a Congress undertaking an impeachment process. And certainly, the narrow attention span of the media and the public will be occupied by the greatest political show on earth.”
As Garber noted to Governing, when it comes to the process and procedures of a chief executive impeachment, he has “general credibility on the issue.”