We have a rarity on the floor in the House of Representatives Thursday. The House will debate and vote on four articles of impeachment of federal Judge Thomas Porteous of New Orleans.
Porteous (pronounced PORR-tee-us) is accused of engineering a kickback scheme with two attorneys, accepting bribes from an attorney who argued a case before him, having a corrupt relationship with bailbondsmen and helping them with their business, lying to the FBI and Senate, and not telling the truth in his own bankruptcy filing.
President Clinton appointed Porteous to the federal bench in 1994. The Senate confirmed him later that fall.
The actual articles of impeachment are as follows.
Article I - engaging in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him as a Federal judge
Article II - engaged in a longstanding pattern of corrupt conduct that demonstrates his unfitness to serve as a United States District Court Judge
Article III - knowingly and intentionally making false statements, under penalty of perjury, related to his personal bankruptcy filing and violating a bankruptcy court order, and
Article IV - knowingly made material false statements about his past to both the United States Senate and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to obtain the office of United States District Court Judge.
Though impeachments are rare, this is the second time in nine months that the House has impeached a federal judge. The House impeached former federal judge Samuel Kent of Galveston, TX last June. He was accused of assaulting and abusing his staff. Kent resigned before he could be tried in the Senate.
Before Kent, the House hadn’t impeached a federal judge since 1989. That year they impeached former Federal Judge Walter Nixon and current Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Hastings was a federal judge in Florida and was the jurist to be removed from the bench by the Senate. Hastings later won a seat in Congress and has served here since 1993.
The impeachment process of judges is similar to how Congress handled the impeachment and trial of former President Clinton. The House acts as a kind of grand jury. If the House votes to impeach Porteous on any of the articles, the issue then moves to the Senate for a trial. If the Senate votes to “convict” on any of the charges, the judge would then be removed from the bench.