On December 13, 2010, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of the 24th U.S. District Court of Louisiana became the eighth U.S. District judge to be impeached and removed from office. His impeachment included both removal and disqualification, and he will lose his $174,000 pension. He is permanently disqualified to ever serve again as a U.S. Judge. He was tried by the U.S. Senate and overwhelmingly convicted on the four articles of impeachment brought by a House of Representatives resolution:
Article I – He engaged in a pattern of conduct “incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him as a Federal Judge.
Article II – He engaged in a “longstanding patter of corrupt conduct” that made him unfit to serve.
Article III – He committed perjury by making false statements during his bankruptcy proceeding.
Article IV – He lied to the U.S. Senate and made false statements to the FBI to get himself approved as a Federal Judge.
The House vote on each of the foregoing charges was unanimous, but the Senate voted 96-0, 69-27, 88-8, and 90-6, respectively on each article. Each vote, however, met the two-thirds majority criteria for conviction.
Former Judge Porteous was originally appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 7, 1994. His subsequent career was characterized by several rulings that included banning Louisiana’s abstinence-only sex education program and overturning a federal ban on “rave paraphernalia” associated with the drug culture of ecstasy. In 1999 he ruled against a Louisiana law that would have banned partial birth abortion.
Things went sour for the Porteous in 2001 after he filed for bankruptcy and the press got wind of his private association with one Louis Marcotte, who was under investigation for corruption. Marcotte was a Bail Bondsman associate of Judge Porteous, and Marcotte dragged the judge into the subsequent investigation. The subsequent federal investigation disclosed that as a State judge, Porteous accepted bribes from lawyers, including a “lap dance” for his son during a visit to a Las Vegas strip club.
The impeachment process for a federal judge is identical to that of any high federal official. Charges and investigated and brought by the U.S. House of Representatives. A simple majority vote in the House is required to bring impeachment charges. Once the Articles of Impeachment are drafted and approved, the process moves to the Senate, whose members serve as a jury. The Senate streamlines the process through what are known as “Impeachment Trial Committees,” who hear the evidence and supervise the examination of witnesses.
Judge Porteous became only the eighth federal district judge in U.S history (out of a total of 13 impeached) to be removed from office. His predecessors were:
John Pickering (New Hampshire, (1804)
West Hughes Humphreys (Tennessee, 1862)*
Mark W. Delahey (Kansas, 1873)
Holsted L. Ritter (Florida, 1926)
Harry E. Clayborne (Nevada, 1986)
Alcee Hastings (Florida, 1988)
Walter Nixon (Mississippi, 1989)
* Removed and disqualified. (See Wikipedia’s, “Impeachment in the United States” for additional information.)
Read more about Judge Porteous’ impeachment trial and conviction at the Huffington Post, “Senate Wraps Up Federal Judge’s Impeachment Trial…”