Now that Judge Alcee L. Hastings has been impeached by the House, Senate leaders must decide whether the unprecedented case should go to trial in the waning days of the 100th Congress.
The Miami jurist on Wednesday became the first federal official ever impeached after he was acquitted in a criminal trial of similar charges.The 413-3 vote approving 17 articles of impeachment sent the case to the Senate, making Hastings the first black official to be impeached. Senate conviction by a two-thirds majority would mean removal of Hastings from his $89,500 lifetime job as a U.S. district judge.
Hastings, 51, was accused by the House of participating with Washington attorney William Borders in a 1981 conspiracy to obtain a $150,000 payment from two convicted racketeers. In return, the judge was to give the two brothers lenient sentences without prison terms and return forfeited assets to them.
Hastings also was charged by the House with lying at his 1983 trial to win acquittal. Borders was convicted in a separate trial.
The Senate has two major decisions to make: first, whether to conduct a trial before the full Senate or a 12-member committee; and whether to carry the case over to the 101st Congress next year.
"I want to discuss this matter with the Democratic caucus before determining which course of action the Senate will take," said Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.
Regardless of the procedure, the Senate will have little time to conduct a trial this year. The chamber recesses after next week until September, and senators plan to adjourn for the year around the end of that month.
Hastings predicted Wednesday that he will win acquittal.