Court Throws Out Krasner’s Impeachment

Krasner outside the statehouse in October

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Philadelphia, PA – A commonwealth court this week threw a wrench into Republican efforts to impeach Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner.  Following the November 16, 2022, impeachment by the House, Krasner filed a suit in the court requesting that the court “declare the pending impeachment proceedings to be unconstitutional and unlawful.”

Krasner, among other things, argued “he cannot be impeached and removed by the General Assembly, because the Pennsylvania Constitution does not give the General Assembly power to impeach local elected officials, as well as because the power to do so has been delegated to the City of Philadelphia’s

The court rejected that argument.

However, they agreed with the third court that the Amended Articles “are invalid and do not provide a constitutionally valid basis for his impeachment, as none of them assert viable claims that District Attorney engaged in ‘any misbehavior in office.’”

The court notes, “District Attorney, as Philadelphia’s chief law enforcement officer, has broad discretion regarding his policy decisions and prosecution choices.”

The Commonwealth Court’s Order and Opinion declare that DA Krasner’s reform policies and ideas on criminal justice are not a basis for an impeachment and that none of the Articles of Impeachment allege any conduct by Krasner that constitutes what is required for impeachment: “misbehavior in office.”

The court rejected the position offered exclusively by Republican legislators that “any misbehavior in office,” in terms of the impeachment process, is whatever the General Assembly deems it to be; in other words, “it is a political offense, not a criminal one.”

In a concurring opinion, one of the judges went further, writing, “Ultimately, it is for the electors of the Commonwealth to decide if this folly has been a wise use of legislative resources, just as it is for the electors of Philadelphia to decide if Petitioner is properly discharging his duties as District Attorney.”

The court concludes that “none of the Amended Articles viably allege that District Attorney has acted in a manner that constitutes ‘any misbehavior in office.’ As such, the Amended Articles do not comply with the requirements imposed by article VI, section 6 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and cannot serve as the basis for a constitutionally sound impeachment trial.”

Krasner stated, “The Commonwealth Court ruling is a victory for Philly voters, whose votes still count no matter how hard some politicians try to erase them. The order and opinion are also a victory for all of us in Pennsylvania and across the United States who believe in and cherish popular democracy. Violent insurrection, voter suppression, election denialism, and efforts to vacate elections you lose by engaging in recalls and bogus investigations and impeachments are authoritarian, un-democratic tactics that no American should accept.”

DA Krasner added, “The people, when united, are more powerful than any power-hungry authoritarian. You cannot impeach the people. The people insist—and will work to ensure—that elections in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are free, fair, and final.”

Krasner’s office noted the “Commonwealth Court’s 12/30/22 Order and 1/12/23 Opinion provide further support for DA Krasner’s repeated argument that the effort to impeach him and remove him from office is an illegal assault on democracy aimed at erasing votes in Philadelphia.”

The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to cancel DA Krasner’s previously scheduled impeachment trial date of 1/18/22. DA Krasner was elected by a wide margin in 2017 and was re-elected by a landslide with historically high voter turnout in 2021.

“We applaud the Court’s recognition that the Pennsylvania House’s impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner failed to meet the legal standard required for removal from office,” Miriam Krinsky, Exeuctive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution said in a statement this week.  “This effort to oust a twice-elected official from office is nothing more than a politically-motivated attempt to override the will of the people of Philadelphia and usurp the autonomy of the duly elected DA.”

She said, “As Judge Ceisler noted, the ‘District Attorney, as Philadelphia’s chief law enforcement officer, has broad discretion regarding his policy decisions and prosecution choices.’”

Krasner’s office in a release charged, “The impeachment effort arose shortly before the November 2022 midterm elections and coincided with a national MAGA strategy to elect anti-democracy candidates on a racist, anti-LGBTQ+ platform that weaponized fear of urban crime rather than offer solutions.”

They added, “That strategy arose in the context of the 1/6/21 MAGA-led insurrection, and ongoing and sweeping GOP efforts to suppress votes and refuse to concede elections they lose. The MAGA strategy utterly failed in 2022, resulting in historic midterm victories and holds by the incumbent party in the White House.”

They explained, “DA Krasner and a wide of array of Philadelphia voters and reform-minded groups have consistently maintained that the impeachment effort was of a piece with longstanding attempts in the United States to disenfranchise voters who are poor, Black, and people of color.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and POWER Interfaith joined the Philly DA’s Office in its legal fight against impeachment.

From Krinsky’s perspective, “Impeachment is an important tool created as a last resort to address serious ‘misbehavior in office’—not to allow politicians to supplant the outcome of local elections simply because they disagree with the voters’ decisions.

“If the legislators who supported impeachment actually cared about the safety of Philadelphia’s residents, they would have been working to pass bills to get guns off the streets and invest in communities, instead of wasting time and taxpayer dollars to wage a partisan battle,” Krinsky explained.  “In fact, if the impeachment trial were allowed to proceed, it would actually make communities less safe by undermining the legitimacy of democracy and the rule of law.”

Krinsky concluded, “We know that this decision is not the end of litigation in this case and we will continue to stand with DA Krasner as he fights to carry out the vision for justice that his constituents overwhelmingly chose. Elected prosecutors are accountable to the people, not the political motivations of a power-hungry state legislature. We hope the courts will continue to recognize this fundamental ideal of our democracy.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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