Congressional hearings on the potential impeachment of U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous of Metairie that begin today in Washington follow Porteous’ filing of a motion for TRO last Friday and a weekend whirlwind of legal documents flying back and forth before a federal court denied the motion yesterday.
The TRO motion and defendant’s response are among the linked documents that follow the brief background below.
Over the weekend, two readers sent links to the same story – one published in the Washington Post and the other in the Times Picayune – but anywhere you read the latest from Louisiana federal judge Thomas Porteous, it’s an incredible story:
A Louisiana federal judge sued a House impeachment task force Friday, contending the panel is making the case for his ouster by using testimony he gave under a promise of immunity.
U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. is under investigation for alleged misconduct, including an allegation that he accepted money from lawyers involved in a trial over which he presided.
The suit, in U.S. District Court, said the House task force violated Porteous’ Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The task force used immunized testimony in witness interviews and to formulate strategy, the suit said.
Monday, a federal judge in Washington denied Judge Porteous’ motion.
A federal court refused Monday to issue a temporary restraining order to block the opening of congressional hearings today into the potential impeachment of U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous of Metairie.
But Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said attorneys for Porteous may still file for a preliminary injunction later this year, though he counseled that their chances for success are a “very, very long shot.”
Richard Westling, representing Porteous, said he will consult with his client and let the court know his decision Nov. 30.
Irvin Nathan, general counsel for the House of Representatives, argued against the temporary restraining order, saying that if Leon had granted it, it would have been the first time in history that a court had tried to block any kind of congressional hearing…
Nathan argued that the Justice Department long ago decided not to prosecute Porteous and that impeachment is explicitly not a criminal proceeding. It is also, he said, a congressional responsibility wholly beyond the power of the court.
Westling countered that impeachment is, in effect, a “quasi-criminal” proceeding that could lead to Porteous being removed from office and barred from holding future federal office. That would happen if the House impeaches Porteous and the Senate convicts him.
Leon told Westling there was “just no precedent” for his pleading that Porteous’ Fifth Amendment rights were being compromised in the impeachment proceedings. Westling replied that impeachment cases are very rare, and that he does not think there has ever been an impeachment case where immunized testimony was being used to help construct the case against the defendant.
Even without a temporary restraining order, Leon said, Porteous faces no imminent danger of lasting harm. While the House Judiciary Committee task force will hold its first hearings today and Wednesday on the Porteous case, Leon said the full House probably will not vote until the spring on whether to impeach Porteous and send his case to the Senate for trial.
Eight potential witnesses have been granted immunity to testify before the impeachment task force.
Before his appointment to the bench, Leon was counsel to Congress in the investigation of three sitting presidents, including in the Iran-Contra and Whitewater cases. He was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush.
Some wonder if Congress is having flashbacks to the recent Impeachment of Texas federal Judge Sam Kent.
You be the Judge. Is Congress denying Porteous his rights under the Fifth Amendment?
- Motions (with exhibits to follow)
Plaintiff: Judge Thomas Porteous
Defendant: ALAN BARON, Special Counsel, Impeachment Task Force, Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, et al.
News from the Hearing
Lawyers secretly paid Judge… (11/17/09)