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Media

Impeachment of Judge Porteous

17 December 2010
Written by

For the eighth time in history, and the first time this century, the Senate has removed a federal judge from office. On Wednesday, Louisiana District Judge G. Thomas Porteous was found guilty of all four articles of impeachment. He was also found guilty on charges of corruption.

Porteous becomes the first federal official since President Bill Clinton to be impeached and the first official to be removed from office since Chief Judge Walter Nixon of the Southern District of Mississippi on November 3, 1989. President Bill Clinton appointed former-Judge Porteous back in 1994.

On March 11, 2010, the House of Representatives approved all four articles of impeachment against Porteous. On March 17, 2010, the Senate organized Porteous' impeachment trial. Finally, on December 7th, 2010, Porteous was found guilty of all four articles of impeachment, removed from office, and, by approval of a motion, was disqualified from ever holding office again.

Each of the four articles of impeachment requires a minimum 2/3 vote in the Senate. The four articles of impeachment that Porteous was accused of were: that he was "incompatible with the trust placed in him", he had a "longstanding pattern of conduct that demonstrates his unfitness to serve", he had made false statements in his bankruptcy filing, and made false statements to the Senate and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with his nomination to the federal bench.

Before impeachment proceedings can begin, a quorum must be assembled. A quorum is the necessary number of Senators (at least 51) needed in order to fully carry out the task at hand. (http://www.senate.gov/reference/glossary_term/quorum.htm) Of the 100 Senators, 96 were present in this process. In the process of an actual impeachment, the House of Representatives vote for the articles of impeachment and the Senate votes for the impeachment and the removal of the official from their current office. The Senate can also disqualify them from holding office ever again.

According to the Senate Impeachment Trial Committee, the "procedures and constitutional requirements" in Senate trials of an impeached judge are "somewhat less well-defined than those of criminal trials". Because of the seriousness of each impeachment, every procedural process is different. (http://site.senate.gov/pdf/R41172.pdf)

The Constitution does not specify as to whether or not the person impeached has the legal right to counsel, the role of the Executive Branch and the amount of involvement in the procedural process, and/or the "value of precedent with respect to the structure of the proceedings". There is very little "constitutional guidance" in regards to the procedures by which to conduct an impeachment trial. (http://site.senate.gov/pdf/R41172.pdf)

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