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Three Pa. House Republicans say they’ll try to impeach Philly DA Larry Krasner

The lawmakers said Krasner was not sufficiently prosecuting lawbreakers amid the city's gun violence crisis. Krasner quickly dismissed it as a political stunt and potentially unconstitutional.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is the target of several House Republicans, who say they're planning to introduce articles of impeachment against him.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is the target of several House Republicans, who say they're planning to introduce articles of impeachment against him.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Three Republican state lawmakers said Monday that they plan to introduce articles of impeachment against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over what they called his dereliction of duty in addressing the city’s gun violence crisis — an effort Krasner quickly dismissed as a political stunt and potentially unconstitutional.

The GOP legislators — none from the Philadelphia area — said at a news conference in Harrisburg that Krasner, a Democrat, was not sufficiently prosecuting lawbreakers as shootings and homicides in Philadelphia have hit record levels over the past several years.

Krasner, they said, has helped usher in “widespread lawlessness in the city of Philadelphia.”

“This isn’t about whether or not I like him,” said State Rep. Timothy O’Neal, whose district is southwest of Pittsburgh. “This is about the fact that he is willfully failing to do his job.”

The announcement came as the city has continued to experience nearly unprecedented levels of gun violence — and a week after 14 people were shot, three fatally, on South Street, in the city’s worst mass shooting in years. It also came as Gov. Tom Wolf criticized the state House Judiciary Committee for not sending a set of proposed gun safety bills to the full chamber for consideration.

» READ MORE: From March: Republicans running for Pa. governor talk a lot about Philly crime. But who are they talking to?

And the move represented the first step in what would be a lengthy and almost-certainly protracted effort to remove the district attorney from his elected office. For the endeavor to succeed, the state House would need to investigate Krasner for any alleged wrongdoing and approve his impeachment by a majority vote before the state Senate could stage a trial and vote for conviction. A conviction to remove Krasner from office would require a two-thirds vote by the Senate.

Krasner, speaking at an unrelated news conference Monday, said it was false to suggest that his office does not prosecute violent crimes. And he said the lawmakers’ effort was an attempt to undercut the will of Philadelphia voters after he was easily reelected to a second term last year.

Elected officials unhappy with that result, Krasner said, or with his reform-oriented administration, can’t simply turn to impeachment to try to have him removed.

“There is nothing new about there being resistance when you’re trying to bring meaningful change and you’re trying to change society,” Krasner said. “What they are doing in terms of impeachment is clearly without a legal basis, it is clearly unconstitutional, and that will all come out as this proceeds — if it proceeds at all.”

Krasner has become a frequent target of GOP lawmakers and candidates during his time in office, and especially over the past several years as gun violence has surged. Other officials have proposed limiting Krasner’s terms in office, impeaching him, or even taking away the right of city residents to elect their own DA.

In seeking to bolster the latest call for impeachment, state representatives backing the effort — O’Neal; Josh Kail, of southwestern Pennsylvania; and Torren Ecker, whose district is near York — pointed to the recent removal of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, another reformer. Boudin was ousted last week in a recall election after critics said he was too lenient on crime.

But Pennsylvania does not have recall elections, and impeachment has been rare. The last time an elected official was convicted by the state Senate was in 1994, when former state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen was found to have improperly discussed cases with a Pittsburgh attorney.

(Some Pennsylvania Republicans in recent years have threatened to impeach officials including Wolf, a Democrat, and Philadelphia’s election officials. Those efforts went nowhere.)

Bruce Ledewitz, a Duquesne University law professor, said any attempts to impeach Krasner would require evidence of corruption or other clear misbehavior in office — not simply political or ideological disagreements over how he’s chosen to run it.

“The general idea that you’re doing a bad job is not misbehavior in office,” Ledewitz said. “If that’s it, it might not be sufficient constitutionally.”

The GOP lawmakers said Monday that they had not yet finished drafting articles of impeachment, and that doing so could take several weeks. In the meantime, they sent a memo to House colleagues seeking support for their effort.

-Staff writer William Bender contributed to this article.