Senate Convicts Impeached Federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous

In rare trial, judge impeached for taking bribes and kickbacks.

ByABC News
December 8, 2010, 4:44 PM

Dec. 8, 2010— -- Serving as the first impeachment jury of the century, the Senate Wednesday convicted a U.S. district judge accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes, making G. Thomas Porteous only the eighth federal judge ever removed from the bench by Congress.

Porteous sat silently in the well of the chamber as 96 Senators stood one by one to announce their verdicts of "guilty" or "not guilty" on four articles of impeachment.

Porteous, a 63-year-old New Orleans native, was impeached by the House in March, accused of taking cash, gifts, and services in exchange for favors to lawyers and bondsmen appearing in his court. His defense claimed that many of the accused crimes took place while Porteous was a state judge.

"He was not only a corrupt state judge, but would become a corrupt federal judge as well," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., head of the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Judicial Impeachment.

Much as happens in the impeachment and trial of a president, the House brings charges -- or impeaches -- federal judges, but it is the Senate's job to try and convict those judges.

The Senate unanimously voted 96-0 to convict on the first article of impeachment, which involved receiving cash bribes from lawyers. The chamber voted with large majorities for "guilty" on the remaining charges and barred him from ever again holding federal office.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Senators worked in a bipartisan manner and the integrity of the process "should be reassuring to every American."

"There are times this place is pretty dysfunctional," she told reporters, "but ... I think the responsibility was handled just as the founders would have wanted us to handle it."

The prosecution's witnesses included two lawyers who admitted they stuffed an envelope with $2,000 in cash in 1999, before Porteous settled a civil case in their favor. There was also a bail bondsman who admitted to buying the judge lavish meals and sending him on trips to get bonds set as high as possible for his clients.

Porteous' lead attorney did not dispute many of the charges, but argued they did not meet the "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard for impeachment. Lawyer Jonathan Turley also said practices, such as accepting favors and emails were common in the Louisiana legal community.