US House committee approves impeachment probe of district judge

US House committee approves impeachment probe of district judge

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee [official website] voted Wednesday to open an impeachment investigation of US District Judge Thomas Porteous [official profile] of the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website], who is accused of perjury and accepting bribes from lawyers. The committee unanimously approved a resolution [PDF text] creating a task force to conduct the inquiry, which is the first of a sitting federal judge in nearly 20 years. The resolution authorizes the task force to take affidavits and depositions, issue subpoenas and hire staff. In a press release [text], committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) [official profile] said:

We take it very seriously when the governing body of the Judiciary sends us a referral for impeachment. Upon review, we believe this matter merits a full investigation.

The Judicial Conference of the United States [official website], the governing body of the US judiciary, recommended [PDF text] in June that the House consider impeachment. AP has more. From New Orleans, the Times-Picayune has local coverage.

After an investigation [report text, PDF] by a special committee, the Judicial Conference found "substantial evidence" that Porteous had signed false financial disclosure forms, falsified statements in a personal bankruptcy proceeding, made false representations to secure a bank loan, and violated criminal laws and ethical rules [text] by soliciting and receiving "cash and other things of value" from lawyers in a bench trial over which he was presiding. Porteous' decision in that case, In re Liljeberg enters, Inc. v. Lifemark Hospitals, Inc., was later partially reversed [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website; JURIST news archive], which last week publicly reprimanded Porteous [PDF text]. The US Constitution gives the House the power to impeach [academic backgrounder] "all civil Officers of the United States" on suspicion of "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Conviction and removal from office requires a two-thirds vote of the US Senate. Thirteen federal judges have been impeached [FJC backgrounder], of which seven have been convicted.