House Panel to Consider Rare Federal Judge Impeachment

House Judiciary Committee members are huddling over whether to begin impeachment proceedings against a federal judge appointed by former President Clinton for allegedly lying about his own bankruptcy and accepting gifts from lawyers arguing cases before his court.

Officials of the U.S. Judicial Conference, the administrative agency that manages the federal courts, says it has substantial evidence that U.S. District Judge Thomas G. Porteous, Jr., had lied on his financial disclosures to hide money from lawyers in cases over which he presided, defrauded a bank into giving him a loan and perjured himself in a bankruptcy proceeding so as to shield himself from creditors.

In the conference's letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recommending impeachment proceedings be considered by the Congress, the group alleges that Porteous

— filed false financial disclosure forms for the purpose of hiding "cash and things of value that he solicited and received from lawyers appearing in litigation before him";

— signed false statements about his bankruptcy "to obtain a discharge of his debts while continuing his lifestyle at the expense of his creditors";

— concealed such transactions so as to prevent litigants from seeking his recusal or challenging his failure to recuse himself;

— "violated several criminal statutes and ethical canons" by refusing to recuse himself from a juryless case in which the lawyers for one side had provided him with gifts; and

— made false representations to get a bank loan "with the intent to defraud the bank and causing the bank to incur losses."

"The conduct described ... has individually and collectively brought disrepute to the federal judiciary," wrote James C. Duff, secretary of the Judicial Conference, in the recommendation for impeachment sent to the House.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said Wednesday that his panel was notified of the allegations and will begin taking a look at the case.

"Documents provided to the Committee by the Judicial Conference are currently under review. Judiciary Committee Republicans will work closely with our Democratic counterparts to ensure expeditious and appropriate action is taken."

"We take these allegations and our duty to respond to them very seriously," added Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.

Porteous has served on the federal court for the Eastern District of Louisiana since 1994. The Fifth Circuit Court Judicial Council first brought up the potential impeachment in December 2007.

According to New Orleans' Times-Picayune, Porteous was returned to the bench in July 2007 after a yearlong absence that ended with federal prosecutors choosing not to indict Porteous for allegations that emerged from the FBI's Operation Wrinkled Robe, which investigated into corruption at the courthouse and resulted in the departure of two state judges and 12 other defendants.

Three grand jury hearings were conducted by the Justice Department in March and April 2006, The Times-Picayune reported last June.

If the House approves impeachment articles, the case is then sent to the Senate, which renders a verdict. Porteous' removal from the bench would be the first of its kind since 1989. Two judges were convicted then. One, Alcee Hastings, is now serving in the House as a Democratic representative from Florida.

FOX News' Chad Pergram and Ian McCaleb contributed to this report.