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Friday, September 19, 2008

Federal Judge Impeachment; First in 20 years

House Panel Moves Toward Impeaching Federal Judge
The Associated Press by Laurie Kellerman - September 18, 2008

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to open the first impeachment probe of a sitting judge in almost two decades. With little discussion, the Democratic-led panel voted unanimously to launch an investigation against U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous, a Louisiana jurist, who is charged with presiding over a trial in which the lawyers involved had given him money. He's also accused of filing for bankruptcy under a false name. Porteous was appointed by President Clinton.

The Judicial Conference of the United States reported in June that Porteous may deserve impeachment. If the full House impeaches Porteous, the case would advance to a Senate trial. A guilty verdict would remove him from the bench. It would be the first impeachment of a federal judge since 1989, when the House impeached Walter Nixon of Mississippi and the Senate convicted Alcee L. Hastings, now a Democratic congressman from Florida, who had been impeached the year before. Neither Porteous, his attorney Kyle Schonekas, nor Chief Judge Helen G. Berrigan of Louisiana's Eastern District was available for comment. In its report, the Judicial Conference said Porteous may deserve impeachment over allegations that he filed a personal bankruptcy petition for himself and his wife under a false name in 2001 and filed many other false statements under oath during the bankruptcy proceedings. He also allegedly took "gifts and things of value" from lawyers with cases before him. "We take it very seriously when the governing body of the Judiciary sends us a referral for impeachment," said Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich. "Upon review, we believe this matter merits a full investigation." There was no dissent on the often highly polarized panel.

"I strongly believe that the committee is doing the right thing," said the panel's ranking Republican, Lamar Smith of Texas. "The alleged corruption of a federal judge, who is appointed for life, is especially egregious." The U.S. House has impeached 13 judges; the Senate acquitted four, convicted seven and two resigned without trial, according to the Federal Judicial Center's Web site. The last acquittal was of Harold Lauderback, a California district judge, in 1933. Four federal district judges have been convicted and removed from office since then: Halsted L. Ritter of Florida in 1936; Harry E. Claiborne of Nevada in 1986 and Hastings and Nixon in 1989.

The allegations against Porteous were uncovered during the FBI's Operation Wrinkled Robe, an investigation of the relationship between state judges in Jefferson Parish, where Porteous served until he was appointed a federal judge in 1994, and bail bondsman Louis Marcotte. That 5 1/2-year investigation put court-ordered wiretaps and video cameras in the parish courthouse and brought 14 convictions, including those of two state judges who were sent to federal prison. In addition to making false statements under oath and taking gifts from attorneys, the charges against Porteous include hiding assets from the bankruptcy estate, leaving gambling losses off the list of debts and getting short-term credit from casinos after the bankruptcy judge ordered him to get approval of the court before taking on any debt.

The probe also uncovered evidence that Porteous rejected a request to step down from a case without revealing that he had a history of financial relationships with at least one attorney involved and leaving lawyers gifts off financial disclosure statements from 1994 to 2000. Porteous stepped aside from all civil cases involving the federal government and all criminal cases in 2003, after a relative of Marcotte said the bondsman -- sent to prison for racketeering -- had paid for Porteous' car repairs and arranged another favor. He was removed from bankruptcy cases after the 5th Circuit's judicial council's report. Associated Press Writer Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report from New Orleans.


Anonymous said...

This Judge needs to go to directly to JAIL...Now send the FEDS over to NYC

Anonymous said...

Well, for 20 years our nation's state and federal courts have fallen deeper into the depths of stinky sewers, all because of the lack of accountability and oversight.

Now judges simply kowtow to their friends, forgetting the law, and their sworn oath. (And, yes, it's about MONEY)

Start making some examples out of the spineless justices and justice will once again be restored to our courts.

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2