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First Senate impeachment trial since Clinton starts

By Ed O'Keefe

U.S. Federal District Judge Thomas Porteous. (AP)

The first Senate impeachment trial in more than a decade begins Monday as senators meet to consider removing U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr.

The House voted unanimously in March to impeach Porteous, almost two years after the Judicial Conference of the United States referred him to Congress for impeachment proceedings. The 63-year-old judge, based in New Orleans, faced four articles of impeachment, including allegations that he lied during background investigations related to his 1994 nomination to the federal bench. Federal court officials on Friday extended his suspension from the bench through the end of the year.

The 12-member Senate Impeachment Trial Committee, led by Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will start hearing arguments from lawyers representing the House of Representatives and Porteous. The panel will gather its evidence and present it to the full Senate for its consideration. Porteous would be the eighth federal judge in U.S. history removed by Congress, if convicted by the Senate.

The proceedings will be similar to a trial, with each side allotted up to 20 hours to call witnesses and present evidence, according to the committee. Senators are allowed to ask questions of the witnesses. The hearings will run from about 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. each day through Thursday and likely will continue next Tuesday, aides said.

Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will serve as lead managers for the House with the assistance of Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

Porteous is represented by a team of lawyers led by George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley and Dan Schwartz with the law firm of Bryan Cave. The four articles of impeachment are either vague or relate to events that occurred before Porteous joined the federal bench, they argue in their pre-trial statement:

"The House has made, and can be expected to continue to make, vague references to offenses, such as 'kickback' and 'bribery,' as if they had been alleged by the House in voting out the Articles of Impeachment, when in fact they were not," the lawyers said. "Three of the four Articles seek to remove Judge Porteous largely on the basis of conduct that allegedly occurred while he was a state court judge, although it is generally agreed that such 'pre-federal' conduct should not be a basis for removing a federal judge. ... If removed on the basis of an appearance of impropriety, the Senate would set a dangerously low and ill-defined standard for future impeachments - the very danger that the Framers sought to avoid in carefully crafting the impeachment language."

But a New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial published Saturday called for a swift conviction: "We've had to live with this crooked judge in office for far too long," the paper said, noting that allegations of wrongdoing first surfaced more than seven years ago.

"A mountain of evidence, and guilty pleas from several people involved, have since shown how Judge Porteous further prostituted his office," the editorial board wrote, adding later, "If all this is not enough to kick a judge off the bench, then the impeachment process is meaningless."

This is the first Senate impeachment trial for a federal judge since 1989, according to the committee. Hatch is the only member of the committee who also sat for that trial. According to the National Law Journal (subscription required), the House impeached U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent last year after he pleaded guilty to obstructing a sexual harassment investigation against him. He resigned before the Senate could hold a trial.

(This item was updated and corrected on Sept. 21.)

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Members of the Senate Impeachment Trial Committee:

Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- Chairman
Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) -- Vice Chairman
John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)
Ted Kaufman (D-Del.)
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
James E. Risch (R-Idaho)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 13, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Porteus has somehow gotten a bunch of talented lawyers to represent him pro bono. He is still being paid $179K a year while hearing no cases. Since he is apparently incapable of telling the truth about his financial situation, who knows what money he has squirreled away. Why these lawyers agreed to represent this man who appears to have no redeeming values whatsoever is beyond me.

The house vote for his impeachment was unanimous. The Senate articles of impeachment are on the Thomas website and the defense's pleadings are online at

I am sure he will be impeached by the senate. It's horrible to think of all the resources and time that were spent on this reptile, but he is entitled to due process (which is more than some the litigants who appeared before him received).

Posted by: Afraid4USA | September 13, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

This should be really fun to watch!!!!!

Posted by: respect2 | September 13, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Just some history:

1798 William Blount Senator Inciting Indians against king of Spain to wrest Louisiana and Florida from Spain and return them to the English. Dismissed 1799
1803 John Pickering District Judge Drunkenness, tyrannous conduct, blasphemy and disregard for statutes Convicted
1804 Samuel Chase Associate Justice of Supreme Court Intemperate, arbitrary and injudicial conduct in sedition trials Acquitted
1826 James H Peck District Judge Typrannous treatment of counsel and arbitrary conduct Aquitted
1862 West H Humphreys District Judge Supporting the secession of Tennessee, organising armed rebellion against the USA, being a judge in the Confederate Government, failing to fulfill his duties) Convicted
1867 Andrew Johnson President Attempted illegal removal of war secretary, inducement of a General to violate an act of Congress and contempt and reproach of Congress Acquitted
1876 William Belknap Secretary of war Accepting profits from someone he appointed to an Army trading post Acquitted
1903 Charles H Swayne District Judge Maliciously imprisonment, falsifying expense accounts, non-residence & use of private car belonging to a company in receivership Acquitted
1912 Robert W Archbald Judge of Commerce Court Using official position for private gain Convicted
1926 George English District Judge Using his office for monetary gain and judicial misconduct Resigned
1932 Harold Louderback District Judge Using his position for personal gain (including favouritism in appointing receivers) Acquitted
1936 Halstead L Ritter District Judge Bringing his court into disrepute (through bankruptcy irregularities & income tax evasion) Convicted
(1974) Richard Nixon President obstructing justice, abusing constitutional authority, and failing to obey subpoenas Resigned
1986 Harry E Claiborne District Judge Filing a false tax return (had already been convicted in federal court) Convicted
1988 Alcee L Hastings District Judge Perjury & bribery (although he was acquited by a jury on the charges) Impeached
1988 Walter L Nixon District Judge Making false statements to a Grand Jury (investigating bribery allegations) Impeached & convicted
1998 William J Clinton President Perjury before a Federal Grand Jury & Obstruction of Justice (the other two charges, Perjury in Paula Jones case & Abuse of Power were not upheld) Impeached on 19th Dec 1998, but acquitted by Senate in 1999
2009 Samuel B Kent District Judge Sexual assault against two female court employees and making false statements. In May 2009 he was sentenced to a 33-month jail term for the latter charge. Impeached on 19th June 2009, but the Senate trial was formally dropped on 20th July following Kent's resignation.

Posted by: LiberalBasher | September 13, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

This looks like an ideal person to run for public office and be welcomed with open arms. The Democrats already have one impeached member of the house (Alcee Hastings) and this judge would also make an outstanding House member since he already knows how to be crooked.

Posted by: sales7 | September 13, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

G.Thomas Porteous is a national disgrace. This man should not only be impeached and thrown off the bench as a federal judge, but should be immediately disbarred to prvent him from ever practicing law again. Porteous should also be tried, convicted and sent to prison for his crimes. He is nothing but a thief who has cloaked his crimes in the black robes of a pretentious judge. He is a corrupt liar and has betrayed the public trust. Porteous should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The courts should fine him heavily, and he should never be allowed to collect one taxpayer penny in future pension benefits.

Posted by: carolynwhitney26 | September 13, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Kick them out.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | September 13, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Obama should appoint him Secretary of the Treasury

Posted by: jiji1 | September 13, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse


Hey Democrats,

The Obama administration may be on the verge of giving wealthy trial lawyers and their main trade group, the American Association for Justice (AAJ), (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) a special tax “champerty” break worth $1.6 billion that allows them to deduct litigation costs in the same year they invest in filing speculative contingency lawsuits. the IRS will make the change administratively in order to avoid a vote in Congress. Historically, trial lawyers are extremely politically active. Since the 1990 election cycle, lawyers and law firm PACs have contributed more than $1 billion to politicians, about three quarters of that going to Democrats. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was joined by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in an April letter to the Treasury's assistant secretary for tax policy.

Taxpayers Give Me Your Money.




Posted by: kstobbe1 | September 13, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

"I am sure he will be impeached by the senate."

He already has been impeached. An impeachment is a charge only - a bill of indictment. The Senate must convict him of the charges listed in the impeachment.

To say that "I am sure he will be impeached by the senate" means "I am sure he will be indicted by the jury," which would be completely wrong. You need to say "I am sure he will be CONVICTED by the Senate."

Posted by: gideonssword81 | September 13, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Chief Judge Edith Jones’ personal reasons for taking down Thomas Porteous should boomerang! Nothing is being done about the other judges nor the various lawyers who give judges perks and 'gifts'. These judges NEED glaring spotlights shined on them too!

It is unbelievable how Louisianians misapprehend that Senator David Vitter has a WHOLE LOT to say concerning JUDGES SITUATED ON FEDERAL BENCHES. Tainted judges and lawyers is one of the main reasons why, for this upcoming election it is time to replace Vitter –who even held up judicial and U.S. attorney appointments in Baton Rouge until his political choices were granted; and is behind appointment of JUDGE KURT ENGELHARDT, who should be seated next to Judge Porteous answering impeachment questions.

It would be wonderful for States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas (all under the Federal 5th 'CIRCUS' –with Jones at the helm), if this trial exposes and remedies a lot of other “Wrinkled” judicial robes –especially those which are the root of nearly every entrenched Louisiana problem, INCLUDING the wrong message being sent to thugs on the street because ELITE thugs in the legal profession flaunt their wrongdoings, but receive no meaningful punishment.

Jones' bizarre and malignant actions in pursuing one man (see:, speaks volumes. Not even the judges who provided their 49-page dissent mattered to her, as even some of them probably imagined the spotlight SHOULD come upon them.

**more about Louisiana corruption and courts:

"Response to: "Louisiana Courts' Low Ranking Based on Flawed Data"


Posted by: lawgrace | September 13, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

A Clinton appointee . . . go figure. It won't get any better with Obama . . . make a line and let's kick a bunch more out.

Next in line should be U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips for imposing her personal leftist agenda on the rest of us subverting the will of the people!

BTW - she's another Clinton appointee . . .

Posted by: Phil41 | September 13, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "...the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary: an irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow,) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little to-day and a little to-morrow, and advancing its noiseless step 1ike a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one."

Out of the history of our country of two-hundred and thirty-four years, only seven judges have been impeached by Congress. Either the politics of impeachment is a failure as foretold by Thomas Jefferson, or we have had very well behaved judges down through the history of our country.

You make your decision which applies, but as for me, I stand with the political inadiquacies of the impeachment process.

In the endeavor of providing for an effective impeachment process, I recommend the improvements of Federal J.A.I.L as set forth on www jail4judges org. It provides for a Special Federal Grand Jury to indict federal judges when they are found to have willfully violated their Oaths of Office, the Constitution, or the laws promugated thereby. After three indictments, Congress shall entertain the impeachment process carried forth against the judge prosecuted by an Independent Prosecutor hired by the Special Federal Grand Jury, and Congress shall vote up or down on the impeachment. In this manor, impeachment shall have the teeth necessary to be respected by the federal judges exhibiting bad behavior!

This is not only recommended, but is absolutely essential to the preservation of the future of our nation!

Ron Branson
National J.A.I.L. Commander-In-Chief
VictoryUSA @jail4judges org
www jail4judges org

Posted by: RonBranson | September 14, 2010 3:21 AM | Report abuse

It is nice to hear that a judge is actually being held accountable, but these impeachment hearings should be happening all over the country at every level.

The Catholic priest scandal has nothing on the betrayals of public trust occurring behind closed courtroom doors every day in this country.

Many of these judges should be removed from the bench and behind bars.

In my state of Massachusetts, you can start with:
Essex Family Court Judge Peter C. Digangi, Essex Family Court Judge Mary McCauley Manzi, Essex Superior Court Judge Merita A. Hopkins, Essex Superior Court Judge Mitchell H. Kaplan, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, and U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sandra L. Lynch.

Posted by: kmtinma | September 14, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

For more on the kind of corruption that I write about above, follow the link below:

I will not rest until I have exposed these judges for the criminals who they are.

Posted by: kmtinma | September 14, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

The tainted and one-sided New Orleans federal 'judicial council' amazingly insults reason, by diverting attention away from the dishonest actions of Attorney CLAUDE LIGHTFOOT, who is also the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Court Judge / trustee who represented Porteous and Porteous’s now deceased wife when they filed bankruptcy. It was Lightfoot who advised the Porteouses to file their falsified bankruptcy case –which is now one the charges being used for impeaching Porteous. Lightfoot has been doubling as a judge / lawyer /trustee for over ten years –and has Yellow Pages advertisement to lure bankruptcy filers while at the same time he sits on the bench (and he apparently advises lying even though he sits in judgment of people's bankruptcy filings) Some of us who know about Lightfoot and many other judicial improprieties by which we have been victimized ARE NOT AMUSED by a semblance of taint removal.

Posted by: lawgrace | September 17, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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