Federal Judge Impeached By House Goes to Trial

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Getting under way this week is the impeachment trial of federal judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., who stands accused of corruption, accepting kickbacks and lying to the Senate and the FBI in order to gain acceptance to the federal bench.

Porteous, who is from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, was investigated by the FBI and a federal grand jury in 2007 on suspicion of a pattern of misconduct, including involvement in a corrupt kickback scheme; making false and misleading statements about his debts and gambling losses; having asked and accepted for favors in return for official actions; having lied in order to “conceal corrupt relationships” while he was being considered for nomination to the federal bench; and failing to recuse himself from a case in which he had a personal involvement.

In March, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to impeach Porteous, approving the four articles of impeachment and, according to a statement released by the House Judiciary Committee Task Force, alleging that the judge “intentionally made material false statements and representations under penalty of perjury, engaged in a corrupt kickback scheme, solicited and accepted unlawful gifts, and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings.”

Although the Justice Department, at the time of the FBI and federal grand jury investigation, alleged that Porteous engaged in “pervasive misconduct” and that he “may have violated federal and state criminal laws, controlling canons of judicial conduct, rules of professional responsibility, and conducted himself in a manner antithetical to the constitutional standard of good behavior required of all federal judges,” they nevertheless decided not to seek criminal charges. The reasons for this included statute-of-limitations issues, but a lawyer for Porteous, Richard W. Westling, said that the Justice Department did not have credible evidence.

“Unfortunately, the House has decided to disregard the Justice Department’s decision and to move forward with impeachment,” said Westling. “As a result, we will now turn to the Senate to seek a full and fair hearing of all the evidence.”

Porteous, 68, is the 15th federal judge ever yo be impeached, and the first person to stand trial for impeachment since President Bill Clinton in 1999. Porteous has not occupied the bench since the fall of 2008, when he was suspended with pay.

The Senate Impeachment Trial Committee will submit a report to the full Senate after Porteous’s trial, and a vote in the matter is expected to take place later this year.

Porteous was appointed as a federal judge in 1994.

 

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