On Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate convened to hold an impeachment trial, for the first time since President Clinton was accused of obstruction of justice and perjury in 1999. The chamber voted overwhelmingly to convict U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous on four articles of impeachment stemming from corruption and perjury charges; on the first charge, involving corruption charges from his tenure as a state court judge, the vote was 96-0.
The proceeding makes Porteous only the eighth federal judge in U.S. history to be removed by impeachment, just one year before he would have been able to begin collecting a $174,000 annual pension. Porteous is also banned from ever holding elected office.
Porteous, who was appointed by Clinton in 1994 to the District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, is an admitted gambling addict who took bribes from attorneys and bail bondsmen with business before him to feed his high-rolling lifestyle. His attorney, Jonathan Turley, argued that the monies passed to Porteous were merely "gifts" from friends and that his behavior was not atypical of Louisiana judges. But members of Congress weren't buying it. (He was unanimously convicted by the House in the spring.) Louisiana's representatives in the Senate were particularly critical.
"Judge Porteous has brought disgrace and shame upon himself," said Sen. Mary Landrieu on Wednesday. "He has harmed the reputation of the federal bench and violated the trust of the people of Louisiana." Sen David Vitter added, "Sadly, the evidence was clear -- Judge Porteous performed his official acts corruptly, favoring certain lawyers and bail bondsmen who gave him money and things of value."
Some senators also hailed the vote as a rare bipartisan proceeding in the otherwise fractious chamber. After the first unanimous vote to impeach, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the special Senate Impeachment Committee, announced that it "shows the extent to which everyone made an independent judgment and took their responsibilities very seriously."
(Photo: AP/Manuel Ceneta)