By Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Republican - 6th Congressional District
It is a rare occasion when the U.S. Congress impeaches a federal judge and removes the accused from the bench. Indeed, only 15 federal judges have been impeached by the House of Representatives in our nation’s history. However, when evidence emerges that an individual is abusing his judicial office for his own advantage, the integrity of the judicial system becomes compromised, and the Congress has the duty to investigate the matter and take the appropriate actions to end the abuse and restore confidence in the judicial system.
Last week a special U.S. Senate committee began the impeachment hearing of Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. As the Ranking Member of the House Task Force on Judicial Impeachment I serve as one of the lead prosecutors and have been presenting the case for Judge Porteous’s removal. Our case is based on four articles of impeachment, which charge Judge Porteous with intentionally making materially false statements and representations under penalty of perjury, engaging in a corrupt kickback scheme, soliciting and accepted unlawful gifts, and intentionally misleading the Senate during his confirmation proceedings.
Specifically, the four articles of impeachment charge that while on the federal bench, Judge Porteous refused to recuse himself from a case when he had previously engaged in a corrupt kickback scheme with the attorneys representing the defense; that he later took thousands of dollars in cash from those same attorneys while the case was pending; that he took gifts from a bail bondsman in exchange for granting favorable bond rates for him and then improperly expunged the records of two of the bail bondsman’s employees, one after he was confirmed by the Senate to be a federal judge; that he lied to a bankruptcy court when he filed for bankruptcy and then violated a bankruptcy court order mandating that he not incur further debt; and that he made materially false statements to the U.S. Senate and FBI during his confirmation process.
It is not a pleasant task to impeach a federal judge, yet when a judge abuses his office, it becomes necessary to take the appropriate action in order to restore the confidence of the American people in the judicial system. The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power and responsibility to impeach federal judges and the Senate the power to remove the accused from office after a fair and impartial hearing. These are powers that Congress utilizes only in cases involving very serious allegations of misconduct. In every step along the way from the thorough investigation by the Task Force on Judicial Impeachment to the hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee and the evidentiary hearing in the Senate, we in Congress have worked in a bipartisan fashion to uncover the truth in order to root out corruption in our judicial system.