A New Orleans federal judge became only the 15th judge in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. In a vote taken last Thursday, the House unanimously approved the four articles of impeachment for Judge Thomas Porteous.
According to the Times-Picayune, the articles of impeachment accused the judge of taking money, expensive meals and other gifts from lawyers and a bail bond company appearing before him and making false statements in a personal bankruptcy filing. The first article voted on by the House specifically found the judge had engaged in misconduct by not disclosing his relationship with a lawyer in a federal case involving a local hospital.
"Our investigation found that Judge Porteous participated in a pattern of corrupt conduct for years," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chair of a House Task Force that reviewed the accusations against Judge Porteous.
The Times-Picayune reports that the next step in the impeachment process requires a Senate committee to conduct a trial. The full Senate would then vote on whether to remove the judge from office, a decision which requires a two-thirds vote. Only eight judges have been removed by Senate vote.
No doubt the irony of the situation was not lost on House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich. He said "it's a sad day" when the House finds a public official has "betrayed his office." Conyers spoke one day after his wife, Monica, a former Detroit City Council member, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for her guilty plea on a bribery charge.
In May 2007, the Department of Justice submitted a complaint of judicial misconduct to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The Department said that it decided not to prosecute Porteous, in part, because the judge's pattern of misconduct stretches so far back, some of the claims would have been barred by the statue of limitations.
Porteous, continues to receive his $174,000 annual judicial salary, but has been barred from hearing cases until September, 2010. Unless the Senate votes to remove him from office or he resigns, Judge Porteous would be able to resume hearing cases at that time.
- Judge Thomas Porteous impeached by U.S. House of Representatives (The Times-Picayune)
- Court Systems, Judges, and the Law (FindLaw)
- Impeachment (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- Should Congress Impeach Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee over Torture Memos? (FindLaw's Courtside Blog)