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Porteous: 'I Must Accept Judgment'

Former federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana, who was removed from office by the Senate this week (see Gavel Grab), said in a statement that he had wanted to “take this fight to the Senate” and that he must accept its judgment now.

“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,” Porteous said in the statement, posted on the blog of his lead lawyer, Jonathan Turley. The statement was the topic of an article in the Blog of Legal Times.

Regarding three articles of impeachment that did not gain a unanimous Senate vote for conviction, Porteous said, “I am deeply grateful to those Senators who voted against the articles. 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.” The Senate voted unanimously on a fourth article of impeachment.

In commending his legal team, Porteous noted, “The one thing that everyone agreed about was that this was the best argued impeachment case in many decades.”

After he experienced gambling and drinking problems, prosecutors said, the judge started taking cash and favors from lawyers and bail bondsmen having business before him. He also was accused of lying during his judicial confirmation.

Porteous concluded in his statement:

“I have previously apologized for the mistakes that I committed in this case. I never disputed many of the underlying facts and I previously accepted punishment in the Fifth Circuit. While I disagree with the decision of the Senate, I must now accept that judgment.”

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Senate Removes U.S. Judge From Office

For only the eighth time in history, the Senate voted Wednesday to convict a federal judge on articles of impeachment and remove him from office.

The action was taken against Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana. On the first article, involving accepting cash from lawyers, he was convicted unanimously, according to an Associated Press report. On three other articles, strong majorities voted for conviction.

After he experienced gambling and drinking problems, prosecutors said, the judge started taking cash and favors from lawyers and bail bondsmen having business before him. He also was accused of lying during his judicial confirmation.

While acknowledging mistakes by the judge, his lead lawyer, Jonathan Turley, contended they did not meet the “high crimes and misdeameanors” test for impeachment.

“His impeachment sends a clear message that misconduct will not be tolerated on the federal bench,” said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the New Orleans-based Metropolitan Crime Commission. You can learn more about Judge Porteous from Gavel Grab.

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Testimony Complete in Impeachment Trial

A special U.S. Senate impeachment panel has concluded hearing testimony in the trial of federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana.

The 12-member panel will deliver a report to the full Senate, and it is expected to vote on his future after the November elections, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

He is accused of accepting cash improperly and of lying during his confirmation proceedings before the Senate. The current Senate proceeding has had its colorful moments, as the LA Times report indicates:

“Witnesses told of bail bondsmen leaving a bucket of shrimp and a bottle of vodka as gifts for the judge. Another witness told of the judge receiving an envelope with $2,000 cash for his son’s wedding from a lawyer who appeared before him.”

The judge’s lead lawyer, Jonathan Turley, maintained that at most, Judge Porteous was guilty of low crimes and misdemeanors. “This is about an appearance of impropriety, and we think it is a mistake to remove judges based on that standard,” Turley said. Read more

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Impeachment Trial to Start in Senate

For the first time since 1989, the impeachment trial of a federal judge will begin in the Senate next week.

Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana, who has been suspended from the bench, stands accused of accepting cash improperly and of lying during his confirmation proceedings before the Senate.

In the first phase of his trial, House members will serve as prosecutors and 12 senators will comprise a presiding trial committee, a National Law Journal article explained. The full Senate will be asked later whether to convict him.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor representing Judge Porteous, noted that the charges involve alleged acts before Judge Porteous took the federal bench. If the Senate were to convict him based on actions before he was a federal judge, it “would not only contradict the views of most constitutional experts but also would wipe out centuries of precedent in the Senate,” Turley asserted.

To learn more about the background of the case, check out Gavel Grab.

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House Votes for Judge's Impeachment

BULLETIN: House lawmakers voted today for four articles of impeachment against Judge G. Thomas Porteous, paving the way for an impeachment trial in the Senate, according to an article in the Blog of Legal Times.

The House of Representative could add Louisiana Federal District Judge G. Thomas Porteous to the list of impeached federal judges. Impeachment for federal judges has only occurred seven times thoughout American history.

Judge Porteous, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, is accused of accepting money and gifts from litigators who appeared before his court. The New York Times reported that “two New Orleans lawyers who once worked with Judge Porteous said they had given him at least $20,000 in cash while he was a judge, including $2,000 stuffed in an envelope in 1999, just before Judge Porteous decided a major civil case in their favor.”

One of the last federal judges to be impeached, Alcee L. Hastings, who was impeached in 1989, is currently serving as a congressman for Florida.

For more information on Judge Porteous, go to Gavel Grab.

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Task Force Recommends Judge's Impeachment

After holding investigative hearings, a House of Representatives task force has recommended impeachment of federal District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana.

The task force voted 8-0 to recommend his impeachment, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The judge, who has been suspended from the bench, stands accused of accepting cash improperly and of lying during his confirmation proceedings before the Senate. If the full House accepts the task force recommendations, he would face four articles of impeachment, according to the Associated Press.

You can learn more about the proceedings against Judge Porteous from earlier Gavel Grab posts.

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Unusual Impeachment Hearings Continue for U.S. Judge

02PORTEOUSIn one of the more in-depth accounts available of the unusual case surrounding U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous (left), The Wall Street Journal discusses the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the Louisiana-based judge, who has been accused of accepting money from lawyers but never criminally charged.

“Judicial impeachments are rare,” suggested Charles Geyh in the WSJ article. Geyh, an Indiana University Law School professor and former Justice at Stake board member, explained that it has been more than 20 years since a federal judge has been removed via impeachment. Mr. Geyh also found that Congress has only investigated 78 judges federal judges in U.S. history.

Commenting on the implications of Judge Porteous’ alleged misconduct, the article stated:

Still, the Porteous case underscores a common critique that federal judges, with their life tenure, often aren’t held sufficiently accountable for misconduct. Typically, misconduct claims against federal judges are handled by the federal judiciary itself — a self-policing format that can give rise to skepticism, said Arthur Hellman, a judicial ethics expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. But, he said, “the process does have teeth.”

Judge Porteous, who was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1994, is suspended with full salary as the committee task force determines whether impeachment will be pursued. He allegedly took payments to help pay off a $150,000 gambling debt, according to the task force hearings.

Robert Creely, a New Orleans lawyer and close friend of Judge Porteous,  admitted to giving as much as $20,000 to the federal judge.  Mr. Creely contends that he received nothing in return for these payments. However, the WSJ article reports that Judge Porteous ruled favorably on one of Mr. Creely’s clients, and that Creely even funded Porteous’ son’s bachelor party. This decision in favor of Creely’s client was later overturned by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which described Judge Porteous’ reasoning as “close to being nonsensical.”

The task force hearings for Judge Porteous began in November and are expected to continue for the next few weeks. For more on this story see these other Gavel Grab posts.

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Impeachment Hearings Start for La. Judge

A Judiciary Committee task force from the House of Representatives has opened impeachment hearings against a federal judge from Louisiana. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., who is suspended but getting his full salary, was accused of soliciting money and gifts from lawyers with cases before him.

At a hearing, investigators said Judge Porteous had racked up more than $150,000 in gambling debt by 2000 and was fashioning ways to raise money and reduce his debt, according to The Blog of Legal Times.

A New Orleans lawyer, Robert Creely, told the task force that he and a law partner gave Judge Porteous about $20,000 over about a decade starting in the 1980s, typically in cash, the Associated Press reported. “The only reason I gave it to him was because he was a friend in need,” Creely said. “I got nothing back.”

Creely said he and his partner received  curatorships from the judge. That is a state court-ordered agreement in which a lawyer is named to represent a defendant who is absent from court, according to BLT Blog. Judge Porteous sat on a state bench before President Bill Clinton picked him for a federal court in 1994.

Judge Porteous has not been charged with a crime. The task force that heard testimony is to make a recommendation on whether impeachment should be pursued. If the full House were to impeach Judge Porteous, he would face a trial before the Senate.

The New Oreans Times-Picayune, in an editorial, scoffed at the testimony of lawyer Creely and his partner that they didn’t  expect to get anything from payments to Judge Porteous. The editorial lamented mounting criminal convictions of area judges, or their removal from the bench for corruption. The editorial was entitled, “Judge Thomas Porteous’ case is a window into a culture of corruption.”

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Additional Penalties Imposed on District Judge

Additional penalties have been levied against U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous, who is implicated in a bribery scandal, according to a article.  Judge Porteous is already facing an impeachment recommendation from the Judicial Conference of the United States.  Under the most recent sanctions from the 5th Judicial Court, all cases have been removed from his jurisdiction for two years, or until Congress acts on the impeachment recommendation. In addition, he has lost his staff and received a public reprimand.

Judge Porteous is accused of accepting cash from attorneys involved in cases pending before him, lying on financial disclosure documents and committing perjury by signing false statements in a personal bankruptcy case.  But he has not been formally charged with criminal conduct by the Department of Justice.

The judge’s sattorney, Lewis Unglesby, said these most recent penalties are “pure meanness. There is no good reason to do that now. He is already suspended and facing impeachment.”

Congress will likely not review the impeachment matter until next year.  The impeachment recommendation was made by the Judicial Conference in June.

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12/21/07 – Two Federal Judges May Face Impeachment; More Women on State High Courts; WV SC Seat Opens Up

Panel: Judge’s Acts May Be Impeachable – The Associated Press
According to the Judicial Council of the 5th Circuit, District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr.’s actions while filing for bankruptcy may warrant impeachment.

Women Setting New Records as State Supreme Court Judges – USINFO
More women than ever are serving on state supreme courts. This article looks at the careers of three women justices.

Kent probe might take a long time – The Houston Chronicle
Judge Sam Kent possibly faces impeachment for allegedly sexually assaulting an employee.

Starcher says he won’t run again for Supreme Court – The Times West Virginia
After months of speculation, Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher announces he will be retiring. His seat will be up for reelection next year in a race that is already being closely watched.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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