U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous, of New Orleans, has been suspended for two years by the Fifth Circuit, the most serious discipline of a federal judge by his peers of which I am aware. The Wall St. Journal's Law Blog has the details.
Porteous appears to be a disgrace. He apparently incurred substantial gambling debts, then in 2001 filed for bankruptcy, but under a fictitious name, so as to save himself embarrassment. The judge was warned not to incur more debt while in bankruptcy, the report stated, but he still ran up thousands of additional dollars in undisclosed gambling debt at casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Judicial Conference also concluded that Porteous solicited and received gifts from lawyers who appeared before him, including, "cash payments, numerous lunches, payments for travel, meals, and hotel rooms in Las Vegas." The judge failed to disclose the gifts, according to the report, and used methods of payment that left no paper trail, including once dispatching his secretary to pick up an envelope of cash.
"There's no prohibition in law or practice, which prevents judges from socializing with their friends," said Lewis Unglesby, Porteous' lawyer. "Big deal. I pay today; you pay tomorrow." Um, I've never dispatched my secretary to get envelopes of cash from my students, Mr. Unglesby.