The Impeached Former Judge

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

To voters in Florida’s 23rd District, Democrat Alcee Hastings is simply their representative in the House. They first elected him by 59 percent of the vote in 1992 and subsequently have returned him to Congress in majorities ranging from 73 percent to 100 percent. He was just re-elected to an eighth term without opposition.

But to those outside Florida’s 23rd who’ve heard of him, and especially to bloggers, Hastings is “the only member of Congress ever to have been impeached and removed from office as a federal judge,” to quote from the “Almanac of American Politics.”

The “Almanac” goes on to say this about his past: “Hastings was charged with conspiring with a friend to take a $150,000 bribe and give two convicted swindlers light sentences. A Miami jury acquitted Hastings in 1983, but the friend was convicted. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals called for impeachment in 1987 and referred the case to Congress. Hastings was impeached by the House by a vote of 413-3 and convicted by the Senate, 69-26.”

Hastings’ history as a judge is significant now because he is being considered for the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. Jane Harman of California is the ranking Democrat on that panel, but in a departure from tradition, may not be automatically elevated to the committee’s top post in January.

That’s because Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected House Speaker for the new, majority-Democratic Congress, reportedly is not fond of Harman, and is not eager to elevate her fellow Californian to the Intelligence chairmanship. Despite his impeachment and removal from the judiciary, Hastings has the important backing of the Congressional Black Caucus for his promotion.

The prospect of Hastings becoming chairman has prompted plenty of complaints in the blogosphere, even among Democrats. Stephen Kaus proclaimed Hastings “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” at The Huffington Post, and Justin Rood of TPMMuckraker did some thorough background reporting on the Hastings bribery case (go here, here and here).

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