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Thomas Porteous

Incumbent
Assumed office 
October 11, 1994
Appointed by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Robert Frederick Collins

Born 1946
New Orleans, Louisiana
Alma mater Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University Law School

G. Thomas Porteous Jr. (born 1946)[1] is a United States federal judge. The United States House of Representatives voted unanimously on March 11, 2010 to impeach him. Senate impeachment proceedings began on March 17, 2010.

Contents

Background

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana[1], Porteous received a B.A. from Louisiana State University in 1968 and a J.D. from Louisiana State University Law School in 1971.[1] He was a special counsel to the Office of the State Attorney General, Louisiana from 1971 to 1973.[1] He was in private practice in Gretna, Louisiana from 1973 to 1980[1], and in Metairie, Louisiana from 1980 to 1984.[1] He was Chief of the Felony Complaint Division in the District Attorney's Office, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana from 1973 to 1975.[1] He was a city attorney of Harahan, Louisiana from 1982 to 1984.[1] He was a judge on the 24th Judicial District Court of Louisiana from 1984 to 1994.[1]

Federal Judge

On August 25, 1994, Porteous was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana vacated by Robert F. Collins.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 7, 1994[1], and received his commission on October 11, 1994.[1]

He has controversially ruled in several landmark cases against the state, including one 2002 case in which he ruled that the state of Louisiana was illegally using federal money to promote religion in its abstinence-only sex education programs.[2] He ordered the state to stop giving money to individuals or organizations that "convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion" with tax dollars.[2]

Also in 2002, Porteous overturned a federal ban on rave paraphernalia such as glowsticks, pacifiers, and dust masks, originally banned due to the subculture's ties to recreational drugs such as Ecstasy[3], after the American Civil Liberties Union successfully claimed the ban to be unconstitutional.[3] He had previously ruled in 1999 against a Louisiana law aimed at banning the late-term abortion procedure known as partial birth abortion in a procedure known as dilation and extraction.[4]

In 2001, Porteous filed for bankruptcy,[5][6] which led to revelations in the press about his private life, specifically the fact that he was alleged to have had close ties with local bail bond magnate Louis Marcotte III,[5][6] at the center of a corruption probe, which has more recently led to his being the subject of investigation himself by federal investigators.[5][6] In May 2006, Porteous, beset by the recent loss of his home due to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005[5][6] and the death of his wife a few months later,[5][6] and still under investigation by a federal grand jury, was granted temporary medical leave and began a year-long furlough from the federal bench.[5][6]

Impeachment proceedings

On June 18, 2008 the Judicial Conference of the United States transmitted a certificate[7] to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives expressing the Conference's determination that consideration of impeachment of Porteous might be warranted.[7] The certificate stated that there was substantial evidence that Porteous "repeatedly committed perjury by signing false financial disclosure forms under oath,"[8] thus concealing "cash and things of value that he solicited and received from lawyers appearing in litigation before him."[8] In a specific case, "he denied a motion to recuse based on his relationship with lawyers in the case . . . and failed to disclose that the lawyers in question had often provided him with cash. Thereafter, while a bench verdict (that is, a verdict by a judge sitting without a jury) was pending, he solicited and received from the lawyers appearing before him illegal gratuities in the form of cash and other things of value"[8]" thus depriving "the public of its right to his honest services".[8] The certificate concluded that this conduct "constituted an abuse of his judicial office"[9] in violation of the Canons of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges".[9]

The certificate also stated that there was substantial evidence that Porteous had "repeatedly committed perjury by signing false financial disclosure forms under oath[8]" in connection with his bankruptcy, allowing "him to obtain a discharge of his debts while continuing his lifestyle at the expense of his creditors"[8], and that he had "made false representations to gain the extension of a bank loan with the intent to defraud the bank".[9]

On September 18, 2008, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to proceed with an investigation of the bribery and perjury allegations[10][11]. On October 15, 2008 House Judiciary Chair John Conyers announced that Alan I. Barron had been hired as Special Counsel[12] to lead an inquiry into Porteous' impeachment. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) were designated as Chair and Ranking Member, respectively to lead the task force conducting the inquiry.[12]

On January 13, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 15 by voice vote, authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to inquire whether the House should impeach Porteous.[13] The resolution was sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee[13] and was proposed because the investigation ended with the previous Congress and a renewal was needed.[14] In October 2009, Reps. Conyers and Lamar Smith introduced a resolution[15] asking to access the judge's tax returns as part of the investigation.[16] The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee[15][16] and, at the same time, a timeframe was established which called for the investigation to end in November 2009; the Judicial Impeachment Task Force would decide by the end of the year if impeachment would be recommended to the Judiciary Committee. If the recommendation was for impeachment, the Committee would take up the matter in early 2010.[16] The task force scheduled the first hearings on the case for November 17 and 18, with more meetings in December before a final recommendation was made.[17]

On November 13 Porteous sued the task force, claiming that the panel was violating his Fifth Amendment rights by using testimony given under immunity in making the case against him.[18] On January 21, 2010, the panel voted unanimously to recommend four articles of impeachment to the full Judiciary Committee,[19] which, on January 27, voted to send the articles of impeachment to the full House.[20] On March 4, 2010, the full Committee reported H.Res. 1031, a resolution of impeachment of Porteous, to the full House. The full House considered the resolution, which included four articles of impeachment, on March 11, 2010. The subjects of the articles of impeachment, and the corresponding vote of the House of Representatives on March 11, 2010, appear below:

Article I - engaging in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him as a Federal judge - Passed the House by a vote of 412-0.[21]
Article II - engaged in a longstanding pattern of corrupt conduct that demonstrates his unfitness to serve as a United States District Court Judge - Passed the House by a vote of 410-0.[22]
Article III - knowingly and intentionally making false statements, under penalty of perjury, related to his personal bankruptcy filing and violating a bankruptcy court order - Passed the House by a vote of 416-0.[23]
Article IV - knowingly made material false statements about his past to both the United States Senate and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to obtain the office of United States District Court Judge - Passed the House by a vote of 423-0.[24]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l staff (n.d.). "Judges of the United States Courts - Porteous, G. Thomas Jr.". Federal Judicial Center. http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=1917. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  2. ^ a b Finch, Susan; Steve Ritea (2002-07-26). "Judge says religious groups got state abstinence grants - Program ordered to keep closer watch". The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA USA): p. B6. "A state program to encourage sexual abstinence among adolescents has given money to individuals and groups that promote religion, a practice that violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge decided Thursday. Ruling in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous ordered the Governor’s Program on Abstinence to stop giving grants to individuals or groups that use the money to convey religious messages "or otherwise advance religion in any way in the course of any event supported in whole or in part" by the program." 
  3. ^ a b Finch, Susan (2002-02-05). "Judge throws out ban on rave gear - Pacifiers, glow sticks are legal". The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA USA). http://web.archive.org/web/20020612090348/http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/neworleans/index.ssf?/newsstory/o_rave05.html. Retrieved 2009-10-09. "Banning pacifiers and glow sticks in an effort to curb drug use at all-night raves violates free speech and does not further the government's war on drugs, a federal judge has ruled in permanently blocking federal agents from enforcing the ban. [...] The American Civil Liberties Union, though, said the ban was unconstitutional and challenged it in federal court." 
  4. ^ Gyan, Jr, Joe (1999-09-15). "State claims abortion restriction attempt to bar infanticide". The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA USA): p. B6. "U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of New Orleans struck down the partial-birth abortion law last March, calling it a "back door effort" to limit a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion . The judge agreed with abortion providers that the '97 law, Act 906, is so vague that it effectively covers any and all abortions." 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Broach, Drew; Richard Rainey (2007-12-20). "Court refers Porteous for impeachment". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2007/12/court_refers_porteous_for_impe.html. Retrieved 2009-10-07. "Porteous and his wife, Carmella, sought protection from their creditors under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in 2001. They filed the case under the names G.T. Ortous and C.A. Ortous with a post office box address in Harvey. Twelve days later, they amended the papers to use their real names. [...] Federal agents initially unearthed Porteous' alleged misconduct during Operation Wrinkled Robe, which largely centered on the influence of a bail bonds company over judges and jailers in Gretna. [...] Porteous returned to the federal bench in June, after spending a year on disability in the wake of losing his house and his wife and enduring the criminal investigation." 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Gordon, Meghan (2007-06-01). "Federal judge returning to bench". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-8/118068336088590.xml&coll=1. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  7. ^ a b Duff, James C. (2008-06-18). "Judicial Conference of the United States Determination" (PDF). Judicial Conference of the United States. http://blog.nola.com/news_impact/2008/06/porteous.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-21. "Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ß 355(b)(1), the Judicial Conference of the United States certifies to the House of Representatives its determination that consideration of impeachment of United States District Judge G. Thomas Porteous (E.D. La.) may be warranted." 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Duff, James C. (2008-06-18). "Judicial Conference of the United States Determination" (PDF). Judicial Conference of the United States. p. 1. http://blog.nola.com/news_impact/2008/06/porteous.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-21. 
  9. ^ a b c Duff, James C. (2008-06-18). "Judicial Conference of the United States Determination" (PDF). Judicial Conference of the United States. p. 2. http://blog.nola.com/news_impact/2008/06/porteous.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-21. 
  10. ^ Kellman, Laurie (2008-09-17). "House panel moves toward impeaching a judge". AP. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-09-17-202675980_x.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-07.  (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5kLH3f4EJ)
  11. ^ Conyers, John, Jr. (2008-09-17). "H. Res. 1448: 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.". United States House of Representatives. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:h.res.1448:. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  12. ^ a b U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary (2008-10-02). "House Judiciary Committee Announces Retention of Alan Baron to Lead Inquiry into Possible Impeachment of Judge Porteous". Press release. http://judiciary.house.gov/news/081015.html. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  13. ^ a b Conyers, John, Jr. (2009-01-06). "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.". United States House of Representatives. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.111hres15. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  14. ^ Alpert, Bruce (2009-01-13). "House votes to renew impeachment probe of Judge Porteous". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/01/house_votes_to_renew_impeachme.html. Retrieved 2009-10-07. "The House of Representatives Tuesday authorized its Judiciary Committee to continue its unfinished impeachment investigation of Louisiana federal judge Thomas Porteous. [...] But the committee didn't complete the investigation before the 110th Congress adjourned at the end of 2008 and by rule all impeachment investigations must be authorized by the current Congress." 
  15. ^ a b Conyers, John, Jr.; Lamar Smith (2009-09-30). "H. Res. 785: Authorizing the Committee on the Judiciary to inspect and receive certain tax returns and tax return information for the purposes of its investigation into whether United States District Judge G. Thomas Porteous should be impeached, and for other purposes.". United States House of Representatives. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.111hres785. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  16. ^ a b c Alpert, Bruce (2009-10-01). "Federal judge's tax returns sought in probe". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2009/10/federal_judges_tax_returns_sou.html. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  17. ^ Alpert, Bruce (2009-11-12). "Porteous impeachment request to be subject of hearings". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/11/post_63.html. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  18. ^ Staff reporter (2009-11-13). "Federal judge sues impeachment panel". AP. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/13/ap/congress/main5636709.shtml. Retrieved 2009-11-14.  (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5lGuibt3o)
  19. ^ Alpert, Bruce (2010-01-21). "Judge Thomas Porteous should be impeached, task force votes". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2010/01/judge_thomas_porteous_should_b.html. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  20. ^ Alpert, Bruce (2010-01-27). "All four articles of impeachment approved against Judge Porteous". New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/01/articles_of_impeachment_approv.html. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  21. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll102.xml
  22. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll103.xml
  23. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll104.xml
  24. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll105.xml

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