- Associated Press - Wednesday, 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.

They also approved a motion barring him from holding future federal office.

Judge Porteous, who sat before senators in the well of the chamber as they voted separately on each count, issued a statement after the vote saying he disagreed but “must now accept that judgment.”

“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,” said the judge, who turns 64 next week. “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.”


House prosecutors laid out a damaging case against Judge Porteous, a New Orleans native who was a state judge before winning appointment to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1994. The prosecutors said gambling and drinking problems led him to begin accepting cash and other favors from attorneys 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 the first article involving cash from attorneys, and with strong majorities on the other three.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who managed the case, said the bipartisan process worked as intended and “should be reassuring to every American.”

Many of the facts in the case weren’t disputed. Judge Porteous‘ lead attorney, Jonathan Turley, acknowledged that the judge made mistakes but argued that they were mostly personal failings that didn’t meet the “high crimes and misdemeanor” standard for impeachment. Mr. 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 Judge Porteous to remain on the bench would erode public confidence in the courts and make a mockery of the federal judiciary.

After months of hearings, the Senate closed the chamber for more than two hours Tuesday night to deliberate on his fate. The Senate 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.”

The defendant offered little reaction as the decision became clear, mostly looking down at papers before him where an attorney kept a tally of the votes.

Judge Porteous is the first judge to be impeached and convicted since 1989, when two judges - Walter Nixon of Mississippi and Alcee L. Hastings of Florida - were removed from office. Mr. Hastings went on to win a seat in Congress, where he still serves.

The case was the first impeachment trial since the 1999 proceedings against President Clinton, who was acquitted.