A Louisiana congressman is weighing in on the impeachment inquiry of a federal judge from his state, urging the House Judiciary Committee to move its investigation along quickly.
Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican, represents part of eastern Louisiana, the same area of the state where Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. has presided since President Bill Clinton appointed him to the federal bench in 1994. Scalise writes in a letter to the Judicial Committee’s leadership that allegations of bribery and perjury by Porteous “have placed a cloud over the entire Eastern District.”
“While this cloud lingers, Judge Porteous continues to sit on the bench and receive his full taxpayer-funded salary as well as pension credits,” Scalise writes. “It is important to take swift action to remove the cloud that exists over the court. The citizens throughout the Eastern District of Louisiana deserve a justice system that functions properly and is free from corruption or scandal.”
The letter, dated April 30, is addressed to Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican. Their offices had no immediate comment.
Legal Times reported April 27 that the committee’s investigation of Porteous was set back three months while the committee’s outside counsel, Alan Baron, resolved a conflict of interest with his then-firm, Holland & Knight. A House rule restricted the firm’s lobbying practice as long as Baron was working for the committee, so Baron moved to Seyfarth Shaw, which does not have a lobbying practice.
The Judicial Council of the 5th Circuit is prohibiting Porteous from hearing cases, but he has refused to resign and is drawing a salary while Baron and other House investigators continue their work. In papers filed in the case, the Justice Department accuses Porteous of taking meals, vacations, and other gifts from lawyers who had cases pending before him. The department also says Porteous lied and hid assets during his personal bankruptcy.
“Corruption at any level of public service cannot be tolerated, and allegations as serious as these must be acted upon as quickly as possible,” Scalise writes. “I urge you to make this inquiry a top priority of your committee.”