GOP reps ask PA Supreme Court to clear way for Larry Krasner impeachment trial

District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks Monday, Nov. 21, at a City Hall news conference with supporters.
Metro file

Two Republican state representatives filed a legal brief Wednesday urging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow District Attorney Larry Krasner’s impeachment trial to proceed in Harrisburg.

Attorneys for Reps. Craig Williams and Timothy Bonner – the two GOP lawmakers appointed as impeach managers – argued that the allegations against Krasner could rise to the level of criminal conduct.

Krasner’s trial in the state Senate has been suspended since January, shortly after the Commonwealth Court, a lower appeals panel, ruled that the articles of impeachment were not constitutionally sound.

A spokesperson for the DA’s Office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday; however, in legal filings of their own, Krasner’s attorneys said allowing the trial to continue would “effectively override and nullify the results of a local election.”

The progressive prosecutor has been elected twice, most recently in 2021, when he earned landslide victories in the primary and general elections.

“The Republican impeachment managers are wasting time they should be spending finding real solutions to Philadelphia’s gun-violence crisis,” said state Rep. Jared Solomon, a Democrat from Northeast Philadelphia and the third impeachment manager, on Twitter.

In the brief submitted Wednesday, Williams and Bonner, mirroring their legal prior arguments, assert that “misbehavior in office” – the standard for impeachment – is a political matter and not the domain of the courts.

One of the seven articles focuses on the case of former Police Officer Ryan Pownall, who Krasner’s office had charged with murder in connection with a 2017 fatal on-duty shooting. The charges were dropped last year, after state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty wrote in an opinion that prosecutors did not treat Pownall fairly.

Even though they argue that impeachable offenses need not be crimes, lawyers for Bonner and Williams suggest that Krasner’s conduct in the case could constitute “official oppression,” a crime under Pennsylvania.

Dougherty in April voluntarily recused himself from the impeachment appeal.

Krasner’s legal team, meanwhile, is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse two other aspects of the Commonwealth Court’s December ruling.

The majority, ruling against him, decided that impeachment proceedings can continue through the end of a legislative session, and they also found that state legislators can impeach a locally-elected official.

All of the legal wrangling comes after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted along party lines to impeach Krasner in November 2022, following the formation of a Republican-led committee that focused on the impact of his policies on the city’s gun violence. Krasner and his supporters have characterized the effort as a thinly-veiled political attack.