The New York Times by JENNIFER STEINHAUER - December 8, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC — The Senate on Wednesday found Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Federal District Court in Louisiana guilty on four articles of impeachment and removed him from the bench, the first time the Senate has ousted a federal judge in more than two decades. Judge Porteous, the eighth federal judge to be removed from office in this manner, was impeached by the House in March on four articles stemming from charges that he received cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings. The behavior amounted to a “pattern of conduct incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him,” according to the articles against him. All 96 senators present voted “guilty” on the first article, which concerned his time as a state court judge and his subsequent failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner, with whom he was accused of trading favors for cash. Tapping his fingers nervously on the table as he looked at the paper where his lawyer kept track of each vote, Judge Porteous waited in vain for a “not guilty” vote. As the last of the senators stood to formally render a decision, a lawyer for the judge reached over to squeeze his arm in consolation. On the other three articles, some senators did support Judge Porteous, with 27 voting in his favor on the article concerning meals, trips and car repair he was accused of receiving from a bail bondsman. The senators also voted 94 to 2 to disqualify him from holding future federal office. “I am deeply saddened to be removed from office but I felt it was important not just to me but to the judiciary to take this fight to the Senate,” Mr. Porteous said in a statement. The statement added, “While I still believe these allegations did not rise to the level of impeachable offenses as a constitutional matter, I understand how people of good faith could disagree.” The process was meant to be as solemn as it was unusual. Still, it often seemed as if members were struggling to pay attention. Some fiddled with their smart phones, and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California had to be poked in the arm by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, a fellow Democrat, to get her to vote on the third article. Mr. Porteous, 64, was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and has been suspended with pay since 2008. As a result of his removal from the bench, which took effect immediately, he will not receive his annual federal pension of $174,000. In 1989, Judges Alcee L. Hastings and Walter M. Nixon were impeached, found guilty by the Senate and removed from office.
The Associated Press by Ben Evans - December 8, 2010
The Senate on Wednesday convicted U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana on four articles of impeachment, making him just the eighth federal judge in history to be removed by Congress. Porteous, who sat before senators in the well of the chamber as they voted separately on each count, declined to comment as he left the chamber. "We're obviously disappointed with the result," said Daniel Schwartz, one of his lawyers. House prosecutors laid out a damaging case against Porteous, 63, a New Orleans native who was a state judge before President Bill Clinton appointed him to the federal bench in 1994. The prosecutors said gambling and drinking problems led him to begin accepting cash and other favors from lawyers and bail bondsmen with business before his court. He also was accused of lying to Congress during his judicial confirmation and filing for bankruptcy under a false name. The Senate voted unanimously to convict on one count and with a strong majority for each of the other three. Porteous's lead lawyer, Jonathan Turley, acknowledged much of the behavior, saying the judge made mistakes but arguing that they were mostly personal failings that didn't meet the "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard for impeachment. Turley also argued that many of the practices - such as accepting favors and expensive meals - were common in the Louisiana legal community. But House prosecutors said the evidence showed a decades-long pattern of corruption. They told senators that allowing Porteous to remain on the bench would erode public confidence in the courts and make a mockery of the federal judiciary. The Senate closed the chamber for more than two hours Tuesday night to deliberate on his fate, then made its decision Wednesday in a solemn ceremonial vote in which senators sat at their desks and rose when called, saying "guilty" or "not guilty." Porteous offered little reaction as the decision became clear, mostly looking down at papers before him on which one of his lawyers kept a tally of the votes. In earlier hearings, two lawyers who once worked with Porteous had testified that they gave him thousands of dollars in cash, including about $2,000 stuffed in an envelope in 1999, just before Porteous decided a major civil case in their client's favor. They also said they paid for meals, trips and part of a bachelor party for one of Porteous's sons in Las Vegas, including a lap dance at a strip club. Another witness, New Orleans bail bondsman Louis Marcotte, described a long-standing relationship in which Marcotte and his employees routinely took Porteous to lavish meals at French Quarter restaurants, repaired his automobiles, washed and filled his cars with gas and took him on trips. In return, Porteous manipulated bond amounts for defendants to give Marcotte the highest fees possible, said Marcotte, who served 18 months in prison on related corruption charges. Porteous was caught up in a 1999 FBI investigation that found widespread corruption in Louisiana's Jefferson Parish. The sting netted more than a dozen convictions, but Porteous was never charged with a crime, in part, authorities said, because statutes of limitations had expired.