The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard nearly four hours of arguments Tuesday in the impeachment trial case of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
The state House voted 107 to 7-85 last year to impeach Krasner for his conduct in office.
At issue is the left-wing prosecutor’s selective prosecution of various crimes and the increasing lawlessness in the state’s largest city, a situation lawmakers say affects the economy of the entire commonwealth. Krasner is a former defense lawyer whose progressive policies align with a group of other district attorneys whose campaigns were funded by money from Democratic mega-donor George Soros. In San Francisco, voters successfully petitioned to remove that city’s Soros-backed prosecutor, former District Attorney Chesa Boudin. She was removed in June 2022.
Philadelphia Republican state Rep. Martina White led the charge to remove Krasner, bringing crime victims to Harrisburg to protest and having them testify at an impeachment hearing in Philadelphia. The victims claimed Krasner and his employees disregarded their suffering.
However, Krasner appealed his impeachment to the Commonwealth Court, which ruled that it did not meet the standard of “misbehavior while in office.” The House impeachment managers, state Reps. Craig Williams (R-Delaware/Chester) and Tim Bonner (R-Mercer/Butler) then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The state Senate, which was to hold its impeachment trial last January, delayed it pending the high court’s ruling.
Lawyer John S. Summers, who represents Krasner, urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the impeachment on Tuesday.
“There has never been an effort to impeach someone who didn’t engage in improper or corrupt action,” said Summers.
Justice Kevin Brobson suggested the Senate could acquit Krasner without the Supreme Court’s involvement.
“You could raise these very arguments in the Senate,” said Brobson. “The Senate could give you the relief you’re asking…Maybe we could get involved later, or maybe we don’t have to get involved at all.”
Summers said Krasner is already “aggrieved” because of the impeachment, regardless of whether the Senate dismissed the case against him.
“He is the chief legal officer of the City of Philadelphia. He’s got hundreds and hundreds of employees. The fact of an impeachment has seriously aggrieved him. That’s harmed him,” Summers said.
“The damage is done. Impeachment has occurred,” said Summers. “All the time one hears about a president who has been impeached…he wasn’t convicted. That does not stop people from saying he’s been impeached.”
There is now “a cloud over the district attorney,” Summers said.
Summers also argued that because the impeachment happened in 2022 and then a new General Assembly was voted into office before the Senate could hold an impeachment trial, the impeachment should be dismissed.
Krasner was reelected in 2021, and all of his policies were well known, so the effort to impeach him would nullify the voters’ choice, Summers said.
Matt Haverstick, the lawyer for Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, argued the Senate should be permitted to hold the impeachment trial. Impeachment is different than bills that must be passed in the two-year legislative window or become moot, “sine die” does not affect impeachment, which is a different process and written separately into the state constitution, he argued.
Robert Graci, the attorney for representatives Williams and Bonner, asserted the impeachment case should go to the Senate for trial.
“It’s a political issue,” said Graci. “History is replete with political impeachments. It’s part of the system. There’s been talk of giving the courts a role. The commentators say it is not something fit for the courts to be involved with because it’s a political process. There are protections (for the accused), such as the two-thirds vote in the Senate (to convict). That’s among the protections.”
Also, the senators take “a special oath,” he added. They promise to pay close attention and to “fairly try the case.”
Krasner did not respond to a request to comment. Williams and Ward declined to comment. The justices will issue a ruling at a later date.