Lawyers for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner urged Commonwealth Court judges Thursday to declare the ongoing impeachment drive against him legally baseless, saying the Republican-led effort in Harrisburg was a dangerous attempt to remove a locally elected Democrat over ideological disagreements — and not impeachable conduct.

During a virtual hearing Thursday morning, Krasner’s attorneys called the impeachment effort a “profound distraction” for the city’s top prosecutor and his office, and said judicial intervention was required to halt what they view as a process marked by several fundamental flaws. Krasner is scheduled to be tried by the state Senate next month.

“The stakes could not be greater,” said John S. Summers. What GOP lawmakers are seeking, Summers added, “is not only the erasure of votes and elections, but they are asking for a rule that says any time the majority party doesn’t like the policies of [another] party, we’ll go impeach the guy, and we can get a trial. … That is a constitutional crisis. That is an invitation to chaos.”

Lawyers for Republican legislative leaders took a different view, telling the judges that the House and Senate have acted within their constitutional authority in approving articles of impeachment against Krasner, and that the courts therefore don’t have a role in a process that remains ongoing.

“The courts have no jurisdiction in impeachment proceedings, and no control over their conduct, so long as actions are taken within constitutional lines,” said Lawrence F. Stengel.

The legal sparring was the latest development in the contentious impeachment effort against Krasner. Republicans have accused the reform-oriented DA of enacting policies that have fueled the city’s shooting crisis and several other offenses.

Krasner has denied the allegations and said the case against him should be dismissed.

He filed suit in Commonwealth Court challenging the validity of the impeachment drive, and submitted a petition earlier this month asking/ judges to declare the proceedings unlawful. Beyond arguing that legislators had found no evidence of the “misbehavior in office” required for impeachment, his lawyers said the legislature lacks the authority to oust local officials, and were improperly stretching impeachment proceedings over two different legislative sessions.

Thursday’s hearing was an opportunity for judges to hear further argument on how or whether they might intervene. They did not make a ruling, or provide a timeline for when they might do so.


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