A Louisiana federal judge sued a House impeachment task force Friday, contending the panel is making the case for his ouster by using testimony he gave under a promise of immunity.
U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. is under investigation for alleged misconduct, including an allegation that he accepted money from lawyers involved in a trial over which he presided.
The suit, in U.S. District Court, said the House task force violated Porteous' Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The task force used immunized testimony in witness interviews and to formulate strategy, the suit said.
There was no immediate response from the Judiciary Committee or the special counsel for the task force, Washington attorney Alan Baron.
Immunized testimony is given under a promise from authorities that the statements will not be used against the defendant.
Porteous gave immunized testimony to a judicial panel that concluded the judge's conduct might constitute grounds for impeachment. The House then formed its own task force.
The allegations against Porteous (por-tee-us) were uncovered during the FBI's Operation Wrinkled Robe, an investigation of state judges in Jefferson Parish, where Porteous served until he was appointed a federal judge in 1994.
That 5 1/2-year investigation put court-ordered wiretaps and video cameras in the parish courthouse and brought 14 convictions, including those of two state judges who were sent to federal prison. Criminal charges were not filed against Porteous.
The investigation uncovered evidence that Porteous rejected a request to step down from a case without revealing that he had a history of financial relationships with at least one attorney involved, and leaving lawyers' gifts off financial disclosure statements from 1994-2000.
Porteous' alleged conduct also included filing for bankruptcy under a false name, taking gifts from attorneys, hiding assets, leaving gambling losses off a list of debts and getting short-term credit from casinos after the bankruptcy judge ordered him to get approval of the court before taking on any debt.
Porteous stepped down from all civil cases involving the federal government and all criminal cases in 2003, after a relative of bail bondsman Louis Marcotte said the bondsman _ sent to prison for racketeering _ had paid for Porteous' car repairs and arranged another favor.
Porteous was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
If the House impeaches Porteous, the case would advance to a Senate trial. The House only needs a majority to approve impeachment. The Senate needs a two-thirds vote to convict.