The federal judiciary's top administrative body has asked the U.S. House of Representatives to consider impeachment of U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana, alleging that he "solicited and received" cash from lawyers in a pending case.
The allegations stemming from an internal judicial investigation of Porteous go beyond what was previously disclosed in a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals inquiry in 2007, when he was accused of perjury and false financial disclosures to conceal cash in a bankruptcy case. In re Complaint of Judicial Misconduct against U.S. District Judge Porteous, 07-05-351-0085.
The Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary's policymaking body, sent its determination to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a letter June 18 that "consideration of impeachment may be warranted." The Judicial Conference letter cited not only allegations of repeated perjury in financial disclosure in a bankruptcy case, but also violation of criminal law and ethical canons while presiding over In re: Liljeberg enters, Inc. v. Lifemark Hospitals, Inc., No. 2:93-cv-1784.
The case was partially reversed by the 5th Circuit in, 304 F.3d 410 (2002).
In the bench trial, Porteous rejected a recusal motion and allegedly failed to disclose "that the lawyers in question had often provided him with cash.
Thereafter, while a bench verdict was pending, he solicited and received from the lawyers appearing before him illegal gratuities in the form of cash and other things of value," the letter states.
Porteous was not available for comment, according to his chambers staff.
"This is as serious an accusation as you can make against a federal judge," said Arthur Hellman, professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who has studied and written extensively on judicial discipline.
"I expect that the House Judiciary Committee will proceed quickly with in impeachment inquiry, and if these allegations are substantiated, Judge Porteous will be impeached, convicted and removed from office -- unless he resigns first," Hellman said.
"Now that the Judicial Conference has completed its review of Judge Porteous's actions, the House Judiciary Committee will promptly review the materials provided by the Conference and determine what further action should be taken in this matter," said Representative John Conyers Jr., chairman of the committee, D-Mich.
Ranking Republican on the committee, Lamar Smith, R-Texas, also said in a prepared statement that Republicans would work with the Democrats to ensure "expeditious and appropriate action is taken." Porteous was appointed by President Clinton in 1994. He was a former Louisiana state judge for the 10 years preceding his appointment and served as the city attorney in Harahan, La.