H.Res. 15: Authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to inquire whether the House should impeach G. Thomas Porteous, a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

H.Res. 15

Authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to inquire whether the House should impeach G. Thomas Porteous, a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

Sponsor
Rep. John Conyers Jr.

Date
January 13, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.Res. 15 is being considered on the floor under a motion to suspend the rules, and requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) on January 6, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.Res. 15 resolves that the House of Representatives:

  • Continues the authority of the Committee on the Judiciary to inquire whether the House should impeach G. Thomas Porteous, a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

  • Allows the Judiciary Committee to take affidavits and depositions by a Member, counsel, or consultant of the Committee, pursuant to notice or subpoena.

  • Authorizes the payment of such sums as may be necessary out of applicable House accounts for the Committee on the Judiciary to procure staff or consultant services.

  • Authorizes the Committee on the Judiciary to require by subpoena or otherwise:

  • The attendance and testimony of any person (including the taking of deposition by Committee counsel or consultant); and

  • The production of things necessary to an inquiry.

  • Permits Committee to adopt a rule regulating the taking of depositions by a Member, counsel or consultant of the Committee.

Background

Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr. was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in 1994. In May 2007, the Department of Justice filed a complaint against Judge Porteous, based on a detailed FBI investigation. In June 2008, the U.S. Judicial Conference notified the House that impeachment proceedings may be warranted based on evidence of perjury, making false statements, and violating criminal and ethical statues in a 2002 case. Judge Porteous has been sanctioned by the Judicial Council of the Fifth Circuit--he will not be assigned new cases for two years or until Congress takes final action on impeachment.

The Constitution reserves the exclusive power of impeachment to the House of Representatives and the exclusive power to try all impeachments in the Senate. According to the Constitution, any "civil officer" of the United States, including federal judges, shall be removed from office if impeached and convicted of "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Thirteen federal judges have been impeached during the past 219 years of our constitutional history. The House has exercised this prerogative sparingly in deference to the principle of judicial independence. According to a 1989 Judiciary Committee report accompanying the articles of impeachment against Judge Walker Nixon, Jr., "American impeachment is neither a criminal prosecution nor civil litigation, but is a remedial process designed to remove from office those public officials who have abused the public trust. The intent is not to punish the individual but to protect the public from injury at the hands of their own servants and to purify the public service." Judge Nixon, the last federal judge to be impeached, was removed from office on charges of perjury in 1989.