Court considers intervening in Larry Krasner impeachment

Larry Krasner
District Attorney Larry Krasner was impeached in November by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Metro file

District Attorney Larry Krasner is scheduled to have his day in court – in front of a jury of state senators – next month.

But on Thursday, lawyers for Krasner and those representing GOP legislative leaders sparred in a virtual courtroom before a panel of judges tasked with deciding whether to weigh in on impeachment proceedings.

The DA was impeached last month, in an almost entirely party-line vote, for “misbehavior in office,” with GOP lawmakers sending seven charges to the Senate.

Krasner’s legal team, during a nearly two-hour oral argument session, argued that the attempt to remove him is unconstitutional, and they have asked the Commonwealth Court in filings to kill the impeachment effort.

“No official will ever be safe if an impeachment like this gets to go to trial,” said attorney Michael Satin, of the Washington, D.C.-based firm Miller & Chevalier Chartered. “Any official could be subject to impeachment based on policy differences.”

At least one of the four judges, Democrat Ellen Ceisler, appeared to agree.

“It seems to be that these impeachment proceedings are based on disagreement with public policy and elected officials’ discretion,” she said. “I think that this proceeding could set terrible precedent in the future.”

Her Republican colleague, Judge Patricia McCullough, also said she thought the case could set bad precedent – of the judiciary meddling in impeachment proceedings.

Attorneys representing Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward and other GOP legislators made the case that the courts should not step in while the impeachment proceedings are ongoing.

Doing so would impede on the powers of the House and Senate, argued lawyer Lawrence Stengel, a former federal judge.

“The courts have no jurisdiction in impeachment proceedings, and no control over their conduct,” Stengel told the judges, “so long as the actions taken are within constitutional lines.”

Krasner’s side believes the articles fall far short of identifying any impeachable offense.

John Summers, another attorney for Krasner, noted that the DA was first elected in 2017 and earned another term in 2021.

“What’s being sought here is an effort to erase all of those votes,” he added. “That’s what this impeachment proceeding is really about.”

The judges did not give any indication about when they would rule, though they have so far fast-tracked the case.

Krasner’s Senate trial is set to begin Jan. 18. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove him from office.

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