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Senate convicts Louisiana federal judge in impeachment trial

Thomas Porteous is removed from office after being found guilty on corruption and perjury charges brought by the House. The vote on one count is unanimous.

December 09, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The Senate on Wednesday convicted a Louisiana federal judge on corruption and perjury charges, the first time in more than two decades the chamber has voted to remove a public official after an impeachment trial.

The vote to remove Judge Thomas Porteous was unanimous on one of the four articles of impeachment; the charges were brought against Porteous in unanimous votes by the House of Representatives in March.

He becomes the eighth federal judge removed from office. The Senate also voted to bar him from ever holding public office in the future.

Porteous, who served on the federal court for the eastern district of Louisiana, was charged with accepting cash and other favors from individuals with business before his court in order to pay gambling debts, and with lying to the Senate and FBI following his nomination to the federal bench.

House impeachment managers argued that Porteous engaged in misconduct that "demonstrates a level of moral depravity and bad judgment, such that it is completely incompatible with the responsibilities of a judge."

It was the first impeachment trial in the Senate since 1999, when then- President Clinton was acquitted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Porteous was appointed to the bench by Clinton in 1994.

The last official to be removed from office after an impeachment trial was Judge Walter Nixon of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1989.

Under impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives acts as a grand jury, indicting elected officials if their alleged misconduct meets a standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors." In the trial phase, senators sit as the jury to hear the charges and levy a verdict.

On Wednesday, the 96 senators voted one-by-one on each charge. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D- Hawaii), the president pro tempore of the Senate, presided over the vote.

The vote on the first count was unanimous, 96-0. On subsequent counts, the votes were 69-27, 88-8, and 90-6. Impeachment required a vote of two-thirds of the Senate.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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