HARRISBURG — Members of the Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday finalized the upper chamber’s procedural actions in the impeachment of Philadelphia’s district attorney by authorizing a writ of summons for Larry Krasner to appear for trial and swearing an oath to uphold their constitutional obligation.
The vote was 29-19 to issue the writ, which requires that Krasner file a formal answer to the charges by Dec. 21 and appear for trial on Jan. 18.
One Democrat joined Republicans in voting affirmatively. Two senators were on leave and didn’t vote.
The pattern mirrored Tuesday’s action in separate 30-20 Senate votes cast to set the rules of practice and procedure for the trial and to invite the state House management team to present the impeachment articles.
With an escort from the sergeant at arms on Wednesday, the management team of state Reps. Craig Williams and Tim Bonner, both Republicans and former prosecutors, and Democratic Rep. Jared Solomon, also an attorney, walked inside the State Capitol from the House to the Senate floor.
From there, Williams read the entirety of the seven articles of impeachment against Krasner, which took about one hour.
Krasner, who has chided the process as unjust and politically motivated, is not accused of committing a crime. Rather, he is impeached for “misbehavior in office” that Republicans say has helped foster an environment of rising violence in the city.
“This crisis of crime and violence is a direct result of District Attorney Krasner’s incompetence, ideological rigidity and refusal to perform the duties he swore to carry out when he became district attorney,” Williams said.
House Republicans accuse Krasner of deciding unilaterally not to prosecute certain crimes such as prostitution and simple marijuana possession. Krasner also is accused of being overly lenient when negotiating plea bargains, failing to properly communicate with crime victims, committing professional misconduct in court proceedings, and obstructing the work of the House Select Committee assigned to look into crime and law enforcement in Philadelphia.
That committee issued its final report this week. Recommendations didn’t include impeachment; rather, the report calls for training mandates for new prosecutors and proposes a constitutional amendment to implement recall elections in Philadelphia.
“It’s a solemn responsibility to present this case on behalf of the House of Representatives. We are seeking a just resolution for Mr. Krasner and the citizens of Pennsylvania,” Rep. Bonner said in remarks to the press after appearing before the Senate.
The state House on Nov. 16 – along partisan lines – impeached Krasner. It’s the only body authorized to make such a move.
The Senate, by extension, is charged with carrying out the trial and rendering judgment. A two-thirds majority of the 50-member chamber, or 34 senators, is necessary to convict.
Republicans were to enter 2023 with a 28-22 advantage, however, longtime member Sen. John Gordner announced his retirement this week, knocking the GOP down to 27 members to begin the new year.
The last impeachment in Pennsylvania ended in 1994 with the conviction of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen and prior to that, another judge was impeached in the 19th Century.
The rules for Krasner’s impeachment process are modeled after the Congressional rules of impeachment and reflect the precedent set in the Larsen case, according to the Senate Republican Caucus. The majority party has said the upper chamber is obligated by the state constitution to proceed to trial.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa countered that the process is unconstitutional because the impeachment proceedings will cross into a new legislative session and that all unfinished business procedurally dies at each session’s end.
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