HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Philadelphia’s attorney-at-choice on Friday moved in a state court to halt a Republican-led attempt to remove him from office, arguing that the process ended when the two-year legislature ended earlier in the week went.
District Attorney Larry Krasner, a Democrat, wants the Commonwealth Court to declare that the General Assembly lacks constitutional authority to remove local officials like him — as opposed to state officials — and that the claims against him do not amount to the requisite “misconduct of office.” for impeachment.
Philadelphia, not the State House or Senate, has oversight over a possible impeachment and removal of its district attorney, the lawsuit says.
Krasner is suing senior Senate Republican Senator Kim Ward of Westmoreland County, unnamed members of the Senate committee that will oversee the case, and the three House-appointed impeachment executives.
“Never before has the legislature exercised its power to impeach someone and be duly elected twice for things that do not amount to a crime,” Krasner’s attorneys said in court. “And never before has the state legislature exercised its power to impeach a locally elected official like District Attorney Krasner.”
Ward spokeswoman Erica Clayton Wright said Friday the filing will be reviewed and a response will be made “once we have had time to evaluate the case.” Clayton Wright previously said that Congress’ impeachment process spanned more than one legislative session.
The House of Representatives voted near-bipartisan to impeach Krasner on Nov. 16 and referred the matter to the state Senate for consideration next month. Removal will require the support of two-thirds of senators, a major challenge in the politically divided chamber.
All but one of the House Republicans voted to impeach, a move fueled by opposition to the progressive policies Krasner has pursued at a time of rising violent crime in the city. All Democrats voted against.
Krasner was overwhelmingly re-elected by Philadelphia voters last year and faces no charges of breaking the law.
Arguments for his ouster include his failure to prosecute some minor crimes and his bail requests, criticism of his leadership of the prosecutor’s office, and reports that his office failed to properly update crime victims of developments in some cases. House Republicans also allege that Krasner obstructed the House investigation.
Krasner has called the move “a drastic measure that lacks a single piece of evidence linking our policies to a rise in crime.”
Democrats said lawmakers removed only two officers — both judges — from office: first a district judge in 1811 and then state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen in 1994.
Larsen was charged after the state Supreme Court removed him from the bench following a felony conviction, Krasner’s attorneys wrote.
“Here the Philadelphia District Attorney was indicted by a lame duck house based primarily on political disagreements that could not be more different than the criminal conduct at issue,” they wrote in Larsen’s case.
Last month, Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County appointed Republican Representatives Tim Bonner of Mercer County and Craig Williams of Delaware County and Democratic Representative Jared Solomon of Philadelphia to lead the Senate process. Solomon voted against impeachment.
Williams said the filings were expected. “If I were him, I’d be pretty worried too,” he said.
Solomon said Friday that he had not read the files and that he was involved to ensure fairness.
“This is a Trump-style Republican attempt to once again outsell the votes of Philadelphians,” said Solomon, from New York, where he attended the Pennsylvania Society’s annual political event. “If it can happen in Philadelphia, it can happen in any of our 67 counties. We need to protect democracy, and that’s what I’m in the room for.”
Bonner said he had not reviewed the file and therefore declined to comment.
The Senate has given Krasner until December 21 to file an answer, and the trial is scheduled to begin on January 18. The GOP won a 28-22 Senate majority last month, though one Republican has since resigned.
Brooke Schultz, Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps member. contributed. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics.
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