The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to open the first impeachment probe of a sitting judge in almost two decades.
With little discussion, the Democrat-led panel voted unanimously to launch an investigation against 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.
Judge Porteous was appointed by President Clinton.
The Judicial Conference of the United States reported in June that Judge Porteous may deserve impeachment. If the full House impeaches him, 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 Florida, who had been impeached the year before.
Neither Judge Porteous, his attorney Chief Judge Helen G. Berrigan of Louisiana’s Eastern District was available for comment.
In its report, the Judicial Conference said Judge Porteous may deserve impeachment over accusations 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 purportedly 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 Jr., Michigan Democrat. “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, Texas. “The alleged corruption of a federal judge, who is appointed for life, is especially egregious.”
The 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.