Not too many lawyers have experience with the impeachment of a federal judge. But the House Judiciary Committee has found one to serve as special counsel for its impeachment inquiry into U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Porteous. The committee says it has hired Alan Baron, a partner in the D.C. office of Holland & Knight. Baron was the House’s special impeachment counsel when lawmakers voted to impeach then-federal judges Alcee Hastings and Walter Nixon in the late 1980s. (The Senate then removed both judges from office.) Baron will work with a 12-member, bipartisan task force in charge of the inquiry. The task force is charged with conducting an investigation and then recommending whether to pursue impeachment. Impeachment would require a vote by the full House. “We are confident that Mr. Baron’s qualifications will be of great assistance to the task force as it seeks the facts of this case,” committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement Wednesday. Conyers should know Baron’s qualifications.
Two decades ago, he was chair of the House Judiciary subcommittee that oversaw Baron’s year-and-a-half-long Hastings investigation. In the mid-1990s, Baron served as the Democrats’ chief counsel on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee’s investigation of 1996 campaign fundraising. In private practice, he has specialized in white-collar defense. Porteous, a Clinton appointee, serves in the eastern district of Louisiana, though he is suspended from hearing cases. He is accused of soliciting and receiving cash from lawyers with cases pending before him and of committing perjury in his personal bankruptcy case. This summer, the Judicial Conference of the United States referred Porteous’ case to the House with the message that impeachment might be warranted. In September, the Judicial Council for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals removed his staff and issued a public reprimand.