The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts held its first hearing Tuesday pursuant to House Resolution 659 (Everett-R-Lycoming) investigating the potential impeachment of indicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) serves the Majority Chair of the Subcommittee and Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery) is the Minority Chair.
Rep. Stephens said the purpose of the first hearing was to educate members and public about the impeachment process, to review of the last impeachment done by the House involving PA Supreme Court Justice Larson and to better understand the authority of the Subcommittee on impeachment.
Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) and former Senator Jeffrey E. Piccola (R-Dauphin), now with Boswell, Tintner, Piccola, who were both involved in the impeachment of Justice Larson and Prof. Stephen Ross, a constitutional law professor at Penn State University, were the initial witnesses before the Subcommittee.
In his opening comments, Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D-Westmoreland), Minority Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned about the timing of a long-drawn out impeachment proceeding given the fact that Kane announced she is not running for reelection.
He noted the Larson impeachment process lasted 18 months in 1993-94.
Rep. Petrarca also said he was concerned about how much an impeachment proceeding would cost taxpayers given Kane has a finite time period in office and whether impeachment would interfere with the criminal proceedings against Kane.
Sen. Piccola said it was important to enter the impeachment process with a bipartisan approach because it takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict. He noted there are two potential punishments in the Constitution-- removal from office, and a second one-- a prohibition from holding any elected or appointed office of public trust in the Commonwealth.
Both Sen. Piccola and Rep. Dermody recommended the Subcommittee hire outside counsel to do the considerable work needed to prepare and manage the impeachment process, interview witnesses and later prepare for a trial, if it comes to that.
Rep. Dermody, echoing Rep. Petrarca’s comments, said the House should consider the timing of impeachment, given Kane’s limited time in office. He noted Larson had 8 years left on his term when he was impeached and the House went ahead with the process because he would not resign his position.
Rep. Dermody said he has doubts whether impeachment process is necessary in the instance of Kane because it would be difficult to get the process done, given Kane has only 8 months left in office.
Rep. Dermody said the Larson investigation cost $1.5 million, about $2.4 million today.
Sen. Piccola noted the issues involving Kane seem to be less complex than those against Larson. He too said it would be difficult to go through the entire impeachment process within 8 months, although he thought it was possible, but “you have to get to it.”
In response to another question, Prof. Ross said he did not know the answer to the question of whether impeachment was still possible if Kane is no longer in office.
Both Rep. Stephens and Rep. Briggs said they intended to follow the due process and other procedures used in the Larson impeachment. “There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Rep. Stephens.
Rep. Stephens said there will be announcements later on future hearings and meetings of the Subcommittee.Rep. Stephens can be contacted by sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep. Briggs can be contacted by sending email to: email@example.com.
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