The Pennsylvania State Senate has postponed the impeachment trial of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner indefinitely.
The chamber voted on Wednesday morning to delay the trial that was originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday, January 18, following legal challenges by Krasner.
Judge Ellen Ceisler said in an order issued last Friday that “none of the Amended Articles of Impeachment satisfy the requirement imposed by Article VI, Section 6 of the Pennsylvania Constitution that impeachment charges against a public official must allege conduct that constitutes what would amount to the common law crime of “misbehavior in office,” i.e., failure to perform a positive ministerial duty or performance of a discretionary duty with an improper or corrupt motive.”
The judge did deny two arguments from the embattled Philly DA, stating that “the General Assembly’s power to impeach and try a public official is judicial in nature and, thus, is not affected by the adjournment of the General Assembly or the two-year span of each General Assembly iteration’s legislative authority,” as well as “all public officials throughout the Commonwealth are subject to impeachment and trial by the General Assembly, regardless of whether they are local or state officials.”
University of Pennsylvania law professor Claire Finkelstein questioned whether the court is encroaching upon separation of powers – a fundamental constitutional doctrine enabling each branch of government to function independently from another with checks and balances.
“That seems to me to usurp the prerogative of the Senate that has to vote on this,” she commented.
House Republicans have accused Krasner, a Democrat, of enacting policies that have fueled the city’s shooting crisis, among other issues. The GOP-controlled state House approved the seven articles of impeachment against him last month, sending the case to the state Senate for a trial.
State Rep. Craig Williams (R-Delaware/Chester), one of the managers leading the impeachment, said legislators are waiting for the opinion for guidance on how to move forward. He said they will likely appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and argue that the Commonwealth Court lacks standing to intervene in a legislative process.
The senators also voted to readopt the rules for the impeachment trial that were passed by the previous session by a 28-20 count.
Conviction and removal from office would require a two-thirds vote in the upper chamber – or 32 of 49 if every member is present – on any of the seven articles filed against him.