Sep 13, 2010 11:01 AM by Melissa Canone
WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal judge from Louisiana is corrupt and
unfit to serve on the bench, House members said Monday as they
began a rare congressional impeachment trial by laying out their
case against the jurist.
Playing the role of prosecutors, Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.,
and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., used their opening statements to a Senate
impeachment panel to outline what they called a decades-long
pattern of unethical behavior by New Orleans-area U.S. District
Judge G. Thomas Porteous. They said that included taking cash,
expensive meals and gifts from lawyers and a bail bondsman, lying
to Congress and filing for bankruptcy under a false name.
"It is the unanimous view of the House of Representatives that
his conduct is not only wrong but so violative of the public trust
that he cannot be allowed to remain on the bench without making a
mockery of the court system," Schiff said.
Porteous' attorney, Jonathan Turley, denied some allegations but
acknowledged others such as accepting meals, which he said is
perfectly legal. He said the judge's behavior, while perhaps
reflecting poor judgment, doesn't meet the high crimes and
misdemeanors standard set in the Constitution for impeachment.
"Judge Porteous has never been indicted, let alone convicted,
of any crime," Turley said. "What the Congress has impeached this
judge for is an appearance of impropriety."
Turley also said much of the conduct in question occurred when
Porteous was a state judge and that Congress would be breaking from
precedent by convicting him for behavior that occurred before he
joined the federal bench.
The Senate trial is the first since the 1999 case against former
President Bill Clinton. Porteous, who was appointed by Clinton in
1994, would be just the eighth judge to be impeached and convicted
The House voted unanimously in March to impeach Porteous. A
two-thirds vote is needed in the Senate to convict him.
Senators hearing the case appear ready to resolve it quickly,
scheduling a series of all-day hearings this week and next.
Porteous' behavior was uncovered in a five-year FBI
investigation in Jefferson Parish dubbed "Operation Wrinkled
Robe." Although the sting netted convictions against more than a
dozen others, Porteous was never charged with a crime. He was,
however, suspended from the bench.
Turley said Porteous, 63, plans to retire next year regardless
of what happens.