Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester, speaks after a hearing of the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order on Sept. 29, 2022, in Philadelphia.
The House select committee formed to gather evidence in support of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s impeachment amassed more than $360,000 in attorney fees from two law firms from July to the end of September, records from the state House Controller’s Office show.
Combined with travel expenses, lodging, meals, renting a hearing room, and catering for two days of hearings in Philadelphia, the committee’s work cost taxpayers a total of $372,434.06, the records provided in response to a Right to Know Request by the Capital-Star show.
The House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, as the five-member panel is formally known, issued the last of three reports on its investigation on Nov. 29, with recommendations to increase prosecution of violent crime, improve the rights of crime victims, and ensure the competence of prosecutors.
Although the committee was still investigating, GOP lawmakers announced on Oct. 26 that they would file articles of impeachment against Krasner, a Democrat, charging him with misconduct in office, obstructing the committee’s work, violating conduct rules for lawyers, and violating the state constitution.
A trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 18 in the state Senate. Krasner filed suit in Commonwealth Court on Friday, seeking to halt the trial
The committee’s chairperson, Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester, said the reports and recommendations show that the committee took its responsibilities seriously. He criticized Krasner’s decision to sue the committee and for his refusal to cooperate.
The select committee invited Krasner to testify in a closed hearing, but Krasner insisted that his testimony be public.
“It would have been better for all involved if the district attorney had chosen to cooperate rather than sue us in Commonwealth Court,” Lawrence said.
Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia, said he resigned from the committee in protest after the majority-GOP House voted 107-85 on Nov. 16 to send the impeachment articles to the Republican-controlled Senate, saying it should have been dissolved after finding no criminal intent on Krasner’s part.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg as they continue to go down this rabbit hole,” Burgos said of the costs. “The committee should have been dissolved but instead the Republicans continue to undermine the intent of the voters of my city.”
When the General Assembly carried out an impeachment against state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen in 1994, the process cost about $1.5 million. Today, that would amount to roughly $3 million when adjusted for inflation using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
A spokesperson for Krasner did not respond to a request for comment on the costs, including money the district attorney’s office has spent in response to the investigation. Krasner is suing to stop the impeachment, arguing that the process is politically motivated, unlawful, and outside the Legislature’s purview.
The records detail spending through the end of September and include $3,518 to rent a venue for two days of hearings at a Penn State facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, $1,950 for catering at the hearings, and $3,590 for travel expenses, lodging, and meals for Lawrence and seven staffers.
The records do not list any expenses for the four other members of the committee, Burgos, Rep. Amen Brown, D-Philadelphia, Rep. Wendi Thomas, R-Bucks; and Rep. Torren Ecker, R-Adams.
Brown and Burgos said they did not have any expenses attributable to the select committee. Ecker did not return a call seeking comment, and Thomas retired from the House last month.
According to an engagement letter provided in response to the Right to Know request, attorney Mark Rush of K&L Gates in Pittsburgh billed $1,150 an hour, and attorney Thomas Ryan of the same firm billed $950 an hour for legal work on behalf of the committee.
Nine other attorneys worked for the committee at hourly rates between $405 and $815 an hour.
K&L Gates’ total bill for 527 hours of work, with a 10 percent discount, was $354,260, according to invoices provided in response to the request.
The committee also used two lawyers from the Harrisburg-based Stevens and Lee firm, who billed $9,116 for 20 hours of work, records showed.
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