HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's state Senate voted Wednesday to postpone a trial seeking to remove Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney on the heels of a court ruling that said the impeachment articles don't meet the constitutionally required standard.
The motion was approved unanimously in the Republican-controlled Senate and indefinitely postpones the trial of Democrat Larry Krasner, which had been scheduled to begin Jan. 18.
It was thrown into doubt by last month’s ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler, who wrote that the impeachment articles approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives didn't rise to the constitutionally required standard of “misbehavior in office” to remove a public official from office.
The practical effect of Ceisler's ruling wasn't immediately clear, and Ceisler has yet to release an opinion that further explains her order. Her ruling also may be appealed by House Republicans.
Spearheaded by the GOP, the House voted to impeach Krasner in November. Krasner has dismissed the House Republicans’ claims as targeting at his policies and sued to halt the trial. Democrats say Republicans are abusing their legislative authority.
The House’s seven impeachment articles asserted that Krasner should be removed from office for various reasons, including complaints about his failure to prosecute some minor crimes.
Krasner, who was overwhelmingly reelected by Philadelphia voters in 2021, has not been charged with a crime or been sanctioned by a court.
Ceisler agreed with Krasner that the seven claims against him do not rise to the impeachable standard of “misbehavior in office.”
Ceisler also wrote that three of the claims unconstitutionally intrude upon the state Supreme Court’s exclusive authority to govern the conduct of lawyers in Pennsylvania and that two of the claims improperly challenge Krasner’s discretionary authority as the district attorney.
She did, however, reject Krasner’s claims that the Legislature lacks constitutional authority to remove local officials like him and that the impeachment proceedings against him should have died with the Nov. 30 end of the two-year legislative session.
This story has been corrected to show that Krasner was reelected in 2021, not last year.
Brooke Schultz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.