Friday, January 22, 2010

The Occasional Bad Apple

Thomas Porteous is a federal judge in Louisiana who was recently investigated by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee unanimously voted that the judge be impeached.

Porteous' attorney, Richard Westling, denounced the task force recommendation.

"We are saddened that the task force has ignored both the Constitution and more than 200 years of precedent in recommending articles of impeachment against Judge Porteous largely based upon allegations that relate to the period before Judge Porteous became a federal judge," Westling said.

Westling noted that a lengthy federal criminal investigation ended with no charges being filed against Porteous, 63. [Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA] said the Justice Department probe found evidence of criminal conduct, but concluded that much of it couldn't be prosecuted because of statutes of limitations.

In light of that, Mr Westling's comments don't exactly inspire us with confidence as to the judge's impeachable character. And that is unfortunate because it appears that during his term the judge was involved in resolving some important cases justly.

Perhaps the most serious complaint against Porteous was his refusal to recuse himself from a complicated federal case or disclose that he had been receiving monetary gifts and lunches for years from the Amato & Creely PLC firm hired by the plaintiff. He also shared roughly half the proceeds from the $40,000 worth of court assignments he assigned to the firm -- an arrangement the articles call a "kickback" -- and continued to accept payments of thousands of dollars in cash from the firm while he was considering a verdict that eventually favored the plaintiff, according to the task force findings.


The House of Representatives has voted only 14 times to impeach a federal judge. The Senate has voted to remove seven of them from federal office, with some judges avoiding a Senate-ordered removal by resigning.

Porteous is barred from hearing cases through the fall of 2010, or his removal from office, whichever occurs first. But he continues to receive his $174,000 federal salary until he resigns, or the Senate votes to remove him from office.

Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Keep collecting a paycheck and go down as impeached judge number eight or resign in shame but without the total impeachment stigma.

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