NOVEMBER 17, 2009
In a desperate effort to avoid impeachment, a Louisiana federal judge embroiled in a corruption scandal is suing the congressional task force that could remove him from the bench to block it from using incriminating evidence that could lead to his demise.
U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Portreous claims that the impeachment task force of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on the Judiciary is illegally using testimony he gave under a promise of immunity to make a case for his ouster. Prosecutors agree not to use immunized testimony against defendants but its not clear what effect, if any, the deals have on impeachment proceedings which are conducted by federal legislators.
The veteran judge is under investigation for taking money and valuable gifts from attorneys with cases before him, hiding assets, filing for bankruptcy under a bogus name and defying a bankruptcy court’s order relating to credit. Porteous’ unscrupulous actions were discovered during an FBI investigation of state judges in Jefferson Parish, where he served until Bill Clinton named him to the federal bench in 1994.
During the years-long criminal probe, Judge Porteous offered incriminating information relating to the judicial misconduct investigation and he wants the House impeachment panel to disregard the lengthy transcript with the juicy details. In his complaint, the judge asserts that his right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is being violated.
If the House impeaches Porteous, the Senate will hold a trial on the matter. Only 14 federal judges have been impeached by the U.S. House and only one in the last two decades. That Texas judge, Samuel Kent (appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush in 1990), is serving a three-year prison sentence for obstructing an investigation into charges that he sexually assaulted two female employees.
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