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The Impeachment Trial of Alcee L. Hastings (1989)                 U.S. District Judge, Florida


Chapter 1: Brief History of the Case
Chapter 2: Chronology
Chapter 3: Votes
Chapter 4: Senate Impeachment Trial Committee
Chapter 5: House Managers & Counsel
Chapter 6: Defense Team
Chapter 7: Procedural Issues and Precedents
Chapter 8: Articles of Impeachment

Brief History of the Case

In 1981, a federal grand jury indicted Judge Alcee L. Hastings, appointed to the federal district court in 1979, along with his friend William A. Borders, a Washington, D.C. lawyer. Hastings was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for soliciting a $150,000 bribe in return for reducing the sentences of two mob-connected felons convicted in Hastings’ court. A year after Borders was convicted of conspiracy, the result of an FBI sting effort, Hastings's case came before the criminal court. Despite Borders’ conviction, and the fact that Hastings had indeed reduced the sentences of the two felons, he was acquitted in a criminal court in 1983 and returned to his judicial post. 

Subsequently, suspicions arose that Hastings had lied and falsified evidence during the trial in order to obtain an acquittal. A special committee of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals began a new probe into the Hastings case. The resulting three-year investigation ended with the panel concluding that Hastings did indeed commit perjury, tamper with evidence, and conspire to gain financially by accepting bribes. The panel recommended further action to the U.S. Judicial Conference, which, in turn, informed the House of Representatives on March 17, 1987, that Judge Alcee Hastings should be impeached and removed from office.

On August 3, 1988, following an investigation by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, the House of Representatives voted 413 to 3 to adopt H. Res. 499, approving 17 articles of impeachment against Hastings, the greatest number of articles in any impeachment proceeding to date. Charges included conspiracy, bribery, perjury, falsifying documents, thwarting a criminal investigation, and undermining the public confidence "in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." The Senate received the articles on August 9, 1988.  

Following the precedent set in the 1986 Claiborne impeachment case, the Senate again chose to refer the matter to a special committee as authorized by impeachment rule XI. On March 16, 1989, the Senate rejected a motion by Hastings to dismiss the case, and adopted S. Res. 38, creating a 12-member trial committee to hear evidence and then report to the full Senate on contested and uncontested facts. The committee was not tasked with making a recommendation on guilt or innocence. Committee hearings continued from July 10, to August 3, 1989. Consisting of six Republicans and six Democrats, the committee heard evidence for and against Hastings, and took testimony from 55 witnesses, including Borders. The House managers presented convincing evidence that Hastings had, indeed, conspired with Borders to solicit the bribe. Hastings, who appeared in his own defense, objected to the use of the committee, insisting that the full Senate should be required to hear evidence. His motion failed. Hastings also insisted that the Senate trial amounted, in legal terms, to "double jeopardy" since he had already been acquitted in a court of law.   

The trial committee presented its report on October 2, 1989. Sixteen days later, the trial began in the U.S. Senate, with prosecution and defense given two hours to summarize their cases. The Senate deliberated in closed session on October 19, 1989. The following day, the Senate voted on 11 of the 17 articles of impeachment, convicting Hastings, by the necessary two-thirds vote, on 8 articles (1-5, 7-9). On two articles (6, 17) the vote fell short of the required majority to convict. On article 11, the Senate voted 95 not guilty to 0 guilty. Having achieved the necessary majority vote to convict on 8 articles, the Senate’s president pro tempore (Robert C. Byrd) ordered Hastings removed from office. The Senate did not vote to disqualify him from holding future office. 

Four years later, Hastings was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the term beginning January 3, 1993. As a member of that body, on December 19, 1998, Hastings voted (on four articles of impeachment) against impeaching President William Jefferson Clinton.


Chronology
August 28, 1979 President Jimmy Carter appointed Alcee Hastings to the Florida federal bench, making him Florida's first African-American federal judge.
February 4, 1983 Judge Hastings was acquitted in the criminal trial for perjury and bribery.
March 1983 A month after Hastings' acquittal, two U.S. District Court judges filed a complaint against Hastings under the 1980 Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act (PL 96-458), accusing the judge of fabricating his defense.
August 25, 1986 Hastings tried but failed to block federal judiciary from making a formal recommendation to Congress.
September 2, 1986 The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta voted to recommend impeachment to the House, despite the fact that Hastings was acquitted in his criminal trial.
September 3, 1986 Recommendation of Circuit Court forwarded to U.S. Judicial Conference.
January 16, 1987 Hastings petitioned Congress to terminate the judicial investigation and to repeal PL 96-458, which provided the legal basis for the investigation. The Senate referred the petition to the Judiciary Committee.
March 17, 1987

Subsequent investigation of Hastings' actions led the panel of 11th Circuit Court judges to conclude that Hastings had lied during the trial and was guilty of perjury and bribery, and that he had fabricated his defense.  The 27-judge panel certified that Hastings had "engaged in conduct which might constitute grounds for impeachment," and recommended impeachment to the House of Representatives.

April 18, 1988 U.S. Supreme Court rejected Hastings attempt to invalidate the Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act.
May 18, 1988 House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice began investigating charges against Hastings.
July 7, 1988 House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice voted 7 to 0 in favor of impeachment.
July 26, 1988 House Judiciary Committee voted 32 to 1 to approve 15 articles of impeachment, and approved 2 other articles by voice vote.
August 3, 1988 House of Representatives voted 413 to 3 to approve 17 articles of impeachment.
August 9, 1988 House of Representatives formally presented impeachment resolution to the Senate.
January 26, 1989 Senate Rules Committee heard arguments from House Managers and Hastings' attorneys on how to conduct impeachment trial. Defense attorneys also asked that Hastings be allowed use of Senate funds in his defense.
March 15, 1989 Senate began impeachment proceedings. Hastings appeared before the Senate, asking that the articles be dismissed, claiming a second trial would amount to "double jeopardy."
March 16, 1989 After a two-hour closed session, the Senate rejected Hastings' motion for dismissal by 92 to 1 vote. (Senator Howard Metzenbaum later stated that he believed Hastings had already been tried and a further trial was not warranted and violated protections against "double jeopardy.")
March 16, 1989 Senate passed S. Res. 38, creating a 12-member Senate Impeachment Trial Committee.
April 12-13, 1989 Senate Trial Committee deliberated in closed session.
May 18, 1989 Senate Trial Committee rejected Hastings' request for Senate funding of his defense.
July 5, 1989 Judge Gerhard A. Gessell dismissed Hastings' complaint that he would not receive fair trial unless the full Senate heard all evidence and testimony.
July 10, 1989 Senate Trial Committee began hearing evidence, a process that continued until August 3, 1989.
October 2, 1989 Senate Trial Committee presented its report to the Senate.
October 2, 1989 Senate Trial Committee presented its report to the Senate.
October 18, 1989 Case came before the full Senate. Hastings, on the Senate floor, spoke in his own defense.
October 19, 1989 Senate deliberated in closed session.
October 20, 1989 Senate voted on 11 articles of impeachment, convicting Hastings on 8 articles, with 2 articles falling short of the necessary two-thirds majority for conviction, and a third article receiving a 95 to 0 vote for not guilty. The president pro tempore of the Senate ordered Hastings removed from office.
Closed Sessions:
Trial Committee:
April 12 and 13, 1989
Full Senate:
March 16, 1989 (2 hours)
October 19, 1989, 2:05 p.m. to 9:20 p.m.

 

Votes

Votes on Articles:
Article 1: 69 guilty; 26 not guilty

Article 2: 68 guilty; 27 not guilty

Article 3: 69 guilty; 26 not guilty

Article 4: 67 guilty; 28 not guilty

Article 5: 67 guilty; 28 not guilty

Article 6: 48 guilty; 47 not guilty

Article 7: 69 guilty; 26 not guilty

Article 8: 68 guilty; 27 not guilty

Article 9: 70 guilty; 25 not guilty

Articles 10-15: Senate chose not to vote on these articles. 

Article 16: 0 guilty; 95 not guilty

Article 17: 60 guilty; 35 not guilty

Vote for Removal and/or Disqualification:

No separate vote was taken. Having found Hastings guilty on 8 of the 17 articles of impeachment, the president pro tempore ordered him removed from office.  He was not disqualified for future office.


Senate Impeachment Trial Committee

Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman

Arlen Specter (R-PA), vice chairman

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

David Pryor (D-AR)

Richard Bryan (D-NV)

J. Robert Kerrey (D-NE)

Joseph Lieberman (D-CT)

David Durenberger (R-MN)

Warren Rudman (R-NH)

Christopher Bond (R-MO)

Slade Gorton (R-WA)

Conrad Burns (R-MT)


House Managers & Counsel

House Managers:
John W. Bryant (D-TX), lead prosecutor

Peter W. Rodino, Jr.

John Conyers, Jr.

Don Edwards

Hamilton Fish, Jr.

George Gekas

John Brooks

Mike Synar

House Counsel:

Alan Baron (former assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland), special counsel


Defense Team

Professor Terence J. Anderson, University of Miami School of Law, chief counsel

Patricia Williams, counsel

John W. Karr, attorney

William G. McLaine, attorney

Robert S. Catz, attorney


Procedural Issues and Precedents
  • First official impeached on the recommendation of the Judicial Conference, acting under PL 96-458 giving the judiciary a process for investigating complaints against members, taking some limited disciplinary action and/or recommending impeachment proceedings to the House.
  • First time official was impeached and tried after being acquitted in criminal court.
  • Second time the Senate referred case to a Senate Impeachment Trial Committee, authorized by impeachment rule XI.  
  • Second impeached official (first was Charles Swayne, 1905) to ask for Senate funds to mount a defense. The Senate again rejected the request. 


Articles of Impeachment

ARTICLE 1. From some time in the first half of 1981 and continuing through October 9, 1981, Judge Hastings and William Borders, then a Washington, D.C. attorney, engaged in a corrupt conspiracy to obtain $150,000 from defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings, in return for the imposition of sentences which would not require incarceration of the defendants.               

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 2. From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.               

The false statement was, in substance, that Judge Hastings and William Borders, of Washington, D.C., never made any agreement to solicit a bribe from defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 3. From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that Judge Hastings never agreed with William Borders, of Washington, D.C., to modify the sentences of defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings, from a term in the Federal penitentiary to probation in return for a bribe from those defendants.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 4. From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that Judge Hastings never agreed with William Borders, of Washington, D.C., in connection with a payment on a bribe, to enter, within ten days of that payment, an order returning a substantial amount of property to the defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings. Judge Hastings had previously ordered that property forfeited.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offence warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 5. From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that Judge Hastings’ appearance at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, on September 16, 1981, was not part of a plan to demonstrate his participation in a bribery scheme with William Borders of Washington, D.C., concerning United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings, and that Judge Hastings expected to meet Mr. Borders at that place and on that occasion.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.       

ARTICLE 6.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to his oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that Judge Hastings did not expect William Borders, of Washington, D.C., to appear at Judge Hastings’ room in the Sheraton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on September 12, 1981.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.               

ARTICLE 7.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to his oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement concerned Judge Hastings’ motive for instructing a law clerk, Jeffrey Miller, to prepare an order on October 5, 1981, in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings, returning a substantial portion of property previously ordered forfeited by Judge Hastings. Judge Hastings stated in substance that he so instructed Mr. Miller primarily because Judge Hastings was concerned that the order would not be completed before Mr. Miller’s scheduled departure, when in fact the instruction on October 5, 1981, to prepare such order was in furtherance of a bribery scheme concerning that case.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.               

ARTICLE 8.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to his oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trial of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that Judge Hastings’ October 5, 1981, telephone conversation with William Borders, of Washington, D.C., was in fact about writing letters to solicit assistance for Hemphill Pride of Columbia, South Carolina, when in fact it was a coded conversation in furtherance of a conspiracy with Mr. Borders to solicit a bribe from defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 9.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to his oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that three documents that purported to be drafts of letters to assist Hemphill Pride, of Columbia, South Carolina, had been written by Judge Hastings on October 5, 1981, and were the letters referred to by Judge Hastings in his October 5, 1981, telephone conversation with William Borders, of Washington, D.C.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 10.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath, make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that on May 5, 1981, Judge Hastings talked to Hemphill Pride by placing a telephone call to 803-758-8825 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.               

ARTICLE 11.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that on August 2, 1981, Judge Hastings talked to Hemphill Pride by placing a telephone call to 803-782-9387 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 12.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that on September 2, 1981, Judge Hastings talked to Hemphill Pride by placing a telephone call to 803-758-8825 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 13.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that 803-777-7716 was a telephone number at a place where Hemphill Pride could be contacted in July 1981.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 14.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact.

The false statement was, in substance, that on the afternoon of October 9, 1981, Judge Hastings called his mother and Patricia Williams from his hotel room at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.               

ARTICLE 15.  From January 18, 1983, until February 4, 1983, Judge Hastings was a defendant in a criminal case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the course of the trial of that case, Judge Hastings, while under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, did knowingly and contrary to that oath make a false statement which was intended to mislead the trier of fact concerning his motives for taking a plane on October 9, 1981, from Baltimore-Washington International Airport rather than from Washington National Airport.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE 16.  From July 15, 1985, to September 15, 1985, Judge Hastings was the supervising judge of a wiretap instituted under chapter 119 of title 18, United States Code (added by title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968). The wiretap was part of certain investigations then being conducted by law enforcement agents of the United States.

As supervising judge, Judge Hastings learned highly confidential information obtained through the wiretap. The documents disclosing this information, presented to Judge Hastings as the supervising judge, were Judge Hastings’ sole source of the highly confidential information.

On September 6, 1985, Judge Hastings revealed highly confidential information that he learned as the supervising judge of the wiretap, as follows: On the morning of September 6, 1985, Judge Hastings told Stephen Clark, the Mayor of Dade County, Florida, to stay away from Kevin “Waxy” Gordon, who was “hot” and was using the Mayor’s name in Hialeah, Florida.

As a result of this improper disclosure, certain investigations then being conducted by law enforcement agents of the United States were thwarted and ultimately terminated.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.               

ARTICLE 17.  Judge Hastings, who as a Federal judge is required to enforce and obey the Constitution and laws of the United States, to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, and to perform the duties of his office impartially, did through–

                (1) a corrupt relationship with William Borders of Washington, D.C.;

                (2) repeated false testimony under oath at Judge Hastings’ criminal trial;

                (3) fabrication of false documents which were submitted as evidence at his criminal trial; and

                (4) improper disclosure of confidential information acquired by him as supervisory judge of a wiretap; undermine confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and betray the trust of the people of the United States, thereby bringing disrepute on the Federal courts and the administration of justice by the Federal courts.

Wherefore, Judge Alcee L. Hastings is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

 
  

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