Yesterday a task force of the House of Representatives voted in favor of four articles of impeachment against Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., Eastern District of Louisiana. The articles allege an improper financial relationship with a firm that handled a case before him, the failure to recuse himself in a case the firm handled, and more. Judge, Facing Impeachment, Mounts His Defense, The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times, Jan. 22, 2010.
The judge's lawyer argues that some of the alleged misconduct was when Porteous was on the state bench and that, in any event, the Department of Justice investigated similar charges and declined to prosecute. But the Legal Times posted the DOJ's letter to the Fifth Circuit's Chief Judge and it does not paint a pretty picture:
Despite the Department's decision not to charge Judge Porteous with violations of federal criminal law, the investigation has uncovered evidence of pervasive misconduct committed by Judge Porteous. The Department also is aware that Judge Porteous and his medical examiners have concluded that he is mentally and psychologically unfit to serve as a federal judge, and that his incompetency is permanent. Collectively, the evidence indicates that Judge Porteous may have violated federal and state criminal laws, controlling canons of judicial conduct, [and] rules of professional responsibility, and conducted himself in a manner antithetical to the constitutional standard of good behavior required of all federal judges.
Impeaching a federal judge is very unusual. The Federal Judicial Center has a list of all the judicial impeachments from 1803 to 2009 -- just 14 in all. Only 7 of the judges were convicted.
The Federal Judicial Center offers a database that enables you to search profiles of all federal judges in history by characteristics such as nominating president, race or ethnicity, and -- a search I just tried -- termination reason.