Alcee Hastings, Who Became Congressman After Impeached As Judge, Has Died

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 4: Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., leaves the House Democrats' caucus meeting in the Capitol on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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April 6, 2021 10:40 a.m.

Alcee Hastings — a longtime Florida representative in the House who was elected to Congress after he was impeached as judge — died Tuesday morning, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel reported.

Hastings was 84 years old, and has been suffering Stage 4 pancreatic cancer since late 2018.

Hastings was serving his 15th term in the House, representing a swath of South Florida.

His congressional career was often overshadowed by the controversy that preceded it. A pioneering civil rights lawyer who spearheaded several cases that sought to desegregate South Florida, Hastings was made a state court judge in 1977. His appointment to the federal judiciary by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 made him the first Black federal judge in Florida.

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Two years later, he was charged with soliciting bribes and faced a criminal trial. Though the jury found him not guilty, Congress later brought an impeachment proceedings against him that included allegations that he lied in the criminal trial. The House impeached him and the Senate removed him from his judgeship in 1989, though it did not vote on whether to disqualify him from running for future office.

That left the door open for him to make his return via a congressional career, during which he repeatedly fended off primary and general election opponents with overwhelming victories.

The Hastings’ allies contend, according to Orlando Sun-Sentinel, that he was singled out for prosecution as a Black man ascending through Florida’s power structures. Though Hastings was able to claim a spot on the House’s powerful Rules Committee, the judiciary bribery scandal cast a pall over his congressional career.

He developed expertise in foreign affairs, at one point leading the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

Hastings was also known for having a sharp wit and a pointed tongue, including with some particularly sharp comments for former President Trump.

Hastings’ death comes as Democrats hold an incredibly tight majority in the House. For now, his passing does not change the number of votes Democrats can lose and still win votes on the floor. But once a new Republican representative is sworn in next week, that number will shrink to two votes — at least until a special Democrat-only run-off election later this month to fill former Rep. Cedric Richmond’s seat will bring the number of votes Democrats can lose back to three.

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