NEW ORLEANS (CN) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to impeach U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. Porteous is accused of taking payoffs and failing to disclose his "corrupt financial relationships" with lawyers and a bail bondsman.
Porteous, 63, is the fifteenth judge to have been impeached in the House for "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- the constitutional requirement for impeachment -- and the second judge impeached in the past 20 years.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson Parish, said impeachment is necessary "so that the Easten District of Louisiana can once again provide the citizens a justice system free of corruption."
The House approved four articles of impeachment, accusing Porteous of taking money, meals and other expensive gifts from lawyers and a bail bond company, and of making false statements in his personal bankruptcy filing.
The House Judiciary Committee said that though much of the judge's "improper conduct" occurred when he was a state judge, he had an obligation to disclose his actions during his confirmation process in 1994, when President Bill Clinton nominated him as to the federal bench.
The Judiciary Committee found that Porteous had engaged "in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the trust placed in him as a federal judge."
The first article, approved by a vote of 412-0, found that Porteous failed to disclose his "corrupt financial relationship with the law firm of Amato & Creely P.C." As a state judge, Porteous allegedly appointed Jacob Amato Jr.'s law partner as a "curator" in hundreds of cases in exchange for a cut of the curatorship fees. He also accepted bribes from Amato and Robert Creely, including $1,000 in cash, the article states.
The second article, approved 410-0, focused on the judge's allegedly corrupt relationship with bail bondsman Louis Marcotte. Judge Porteous took official actions benefitting Marcotte and his sister in exchange for meals, trips, home and car repairs, and other gifts, the article states. Porteous "has engaged in conduct so utterly lacking in honesty and integrity" that he is unfit for office, the committee found.
The House approved the third article of impeachment 416-0. It accuses Judge Porteous of making false and misleading statements under oath, including concealing debts and disregarding a bankruptcy court's orders. He allegedly used a false name and address to conceal assets, gambling losses and debts. "In doing so, Judge Porteous brought his court into scandal and disrepute," the article states.
The final article, approved 423-0, accuses Porteous of hiding his corrupt relationships from the FBI and lawmakers during his nomination and Senate confirmation.
During deliberations, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R.-Wis., said he has participated in many House investigations of improper conduct by federal officials and has never seen "the overwhelming and blatant corruption we have before us today."
The case will be tried in the Senate. Only eight judges in U.S. history have been removed by Senate vote.
According to the Times-Picayune, Porteous's lawyers acknowledge that he made some mistakes, all of which were the result of gambling and drinking problems. But they say the judge handled all cases before him professionally and without bias, despite friendships and his acceptance of free meals and other gifts from some lawyers who appeared before him.
The Times-Picayune reports that Porteous is still receiving his $174,000 federal salary but has been barred from hearing cases until September. If the Senate does not vote to remove him from office and he does not resign, Porteous can resume hearing cases in September.