Capitol Beat

The state Senate is laying the groundwork for Larry Krasner’s impeachment trial. Here’s how it will work.

Lawmakers will take procedural steps this week to start proceedings in January.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks at the state Capitol.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks at the state Capitol. Justin Sweitzer

Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Senate this week will take a series of procedural votes as they prepare for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s impeachment trial, which is set to begin next January barring any unforeseen changes. 

The trial will follow a months-long investigation spearheaded by House Republicans, who looked to frame Krasner and his progressive approach to prosecuting and reducing incarceration levels as a catalyst for Philadelphia’s rising homicide rate. Citing misbehavior in office, Republican lawmakers voted 107-85 to formally impeach Krasner on Nov. 16, sending seven articles of impeachment to the Senate, which is tasked with conducting impeachment trials.

The trial won’t begin until January 2023, but state senators will return to Harrisburg this week to get the process started – the first impeachment trial held by the chamber in nearly 30 years. 

Here’s what to expect:

The Senate will return this week to vote on three resolutions.

The chamber will reconvene Tuesday and Wednesday to vote on a slate of resolutions that will outline how Krasner’s trial will operate. 

The first two resolutions will establish the trial rules and formally invite House impeachment managers to the Senate to present the articles. Once approved, the articles will be delivered to the chamber on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

On Wednesday, senators will also take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and will consider a third resolution – a writ of summons – that will direct Krasner to appear before the Senate on Jan. 18, 2023 at 11:30 a.m. for the start of the trial. 

Krasner would be required to respond to the writ of summons by noon on Dec. 21, according to the resolution.

The Senate can continue conducting normal legislative business while the trial is ongoing. Republican leaders in the state Senate have framed the impeachment trial as a “constitutional obligation,” underscoring that they are required to conduct the trial due to the House vote. 

“The Senate’s Constitutional obligations are clear, so we are prepared to fulfill our duties and continue the impeachment process,” retiring state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said in a statement last week. 

Krasner and Democrats have said the effort is politically motivated.

Krasner and most Democrats in the General Assembly have spoken out against the ongoing impeachment effort since GOP lawmakers first formed a select committee to investigate Krasner and crime in Philadelphia in June. 

During a stop in Harrisburg last month, Krasner said the probe was politically motivated. “This is an effort to impeach someone for political purposes who has done nothing corrupt and nothing illegal because they want to erase Philadelphia’s votes,” Krasner told reporters at the state Capitol. “They want to impeach our ideas. They want to erase Philadelphia’s votes.”

When reached for comment last week, a spokesperson for Krasner declined to comment on the Senate’s plan of action for the week, referring City & State to a legal filing that argues that the House “has no authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution to impeach the Philadelphia district attorney.”

A two-thirds majority in the state Senate is needed in order to convict Krasner of the articles presented by the House.

This will mark the Senate’s first impeachment trial in the chamber since the 1990s.

The last public official to face an impeachment trial conducted by the Senate was Rolf Larsen, a Democratic state Supreme Court justice who, in 1994, was convicted of conspiracy, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The conviction came after a grand jury recommended that the justice be prosecuted on one count of criminal conspiracy and more than 20 counts related to obtaining illegal tranquilizers, though in April 1994, he was ultimately convicted of just two counts by an Allegheny County jury.

The House voted unanimously in July of that year to impeach Larsen on seven counts of misbehavior in office. During his impeachment trial, he was later convicted of one count, and the chamber voted 49-0 to prohibit Larsen from holding public office, per the Tribune-Review.