Patterico's Pontifications


Will Judge Samuel Kent be Impeached?

Filed under: Judiciary — DRJ @ 12:41 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston, Texas, has served as a federal district court judge for 17 years. In May, an employee of the clerk’s office filed a sexual harassment complaint against Kent and as a result Kent was removed from the bench for 4 months. Following a confidential judicial investigation, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently reprimanded and suspended Kent.

The Galveston Daily News has published several articles on Judge Kent here and Volokh has discussed it here and here.

Now more details of the allegations against Judge Kent have been made public:

“In March, U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent didn’t just sexually harass Cathy McBroom — he physically assaulted her, her attorney and her mother said.
McBroom’s mother, Mary Ann Schopp of Seabrook, and McBroom’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, confirmed a report by the Houston Chronicle that McBroom had accused Kent of something far more serious than harassment.

McBroom’s contention is that, on a Friday afternoon in March, Kent called her, a married mother of three, into his chambers. McBroom complained that the judge grabbed her, pulled up her shirt and bra and put his mouth on her breast, and then he shoved her head toward his crotch, Schopp and Hardin confirmed.

Kent and his attorney, Maria Boyce, have ignored repeated requests for comment.

The incident came after years of other incidents in which Kent verbally and physically harassed McBroom, her mother said. McBroom in 2003 complained to her boss in the federal clerk’s office in Galveston that Kent had groped her, but her boss told her she could lose her job if she filed a complaint, Schopp and Hardin confirmed.

Other women also have accused Kent of unwanted touching. Others have accused him of appearing in court after drinking. In addition, he has been accused of playing favorites among the lawyers that appeared in his court.”

Both Republican and Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee have called for an investigation into whether Kent should be impeached.


4 Responses to “Will Judge Samuel Kent be Impeached?”

  1. Someone with great experience with issues of exploitation and impeachment should head up the investigation. I nominate Bill Clinton.

    Old Coot (06fab9)

  2. What a shame. I have known about Judge Kent since law school because he has written some of the funniest legal opinions I have ever seen published. His opinions in Republic of Bol. v. Philip Morris Cos., 39 F. Supp. 2d 1008 and Smith v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., 943 F. Supp. 782 are classics and include such observations as “Defendant will again be pleased to know that regular limousine service is available from Hobby Airport, even to the steps of this humble courthouse, which has got lights, indoor plummin’, ‘lectric doors, and all sorts of new stuff, almost like them big courthouses back East.”

    Its too bad his eccentricities also include sexual assault.

    CStudent (4cff86)

  3. I didn’t realize he was that guy!

    Patterico (bad89b)

  4. It’s worth noting, as part of this, that the nineteen judges on the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council who considered this complaint arranged for counsel to investigate it, including the taking of sworn testimony. The order of reprimand includes a reference to the Council having made findings and conclusions on the basis of the investigation, which one might logically presume would include assessments of the respective witnesses’ credibility. The order also states that the Council widened its investigation to include matters that weren’t part of the original complaint.

    We don’t know what conclusions the Council reached, however, nor the factual bases for them. All we know is that among the remedial measures it ordered — and we don’t even know all of those — was a four-month suspension and a formal, public reprimand. (Judge Kent was also transferred from Galveston, where he was the sole resident judge of the Houston/Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas, to the Houston courthouse.) It’s logically possible that those remedies were ordered for reasons other than that the Council found the complaining party’s allegations to be entirely credible.

    We also know that the Council had explicit statutory power to order much harsher remedies than any which have been made public. The four-month suspension could have been considerably longer. The relevant statute also permits such a council to publicly urge a judge to resign, but no such call was made with respect to Judge Kent. And most significantly, in my mind, although the statute expressly authorizes such councils to recommend to the Judicial Conference (which comprises Chief Judges from all of the federal circuits) that it, in turn, recommend the initiation of impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, there’s no indication that this Council made that recommendation.

    Obviously, even though both chambers of Congress passed, and the then-president signed, a statutory set-up that places initial responsibility for investigating and dealing with complaints against the judiciary in the hands of the judiciary itself, the House of Representatives is nevertheless not bound by the decision of the Council not to recommend impeachment. And some critics of the existing system think that federal judges are too protective of their own — and they point, among other examples, to a Ninth Circuit Judicial Council’s treatment of complaints made about U.S. District Judge Manuel Leal in California, which also drew criticism from a 2005 commission headed by Justice Breyer. The complaint made about the handling of the Leal matter, however, was that that council failed to do what the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council investigating the complaint about Judge Kent clearly did do — i.e., take the complaint seriously and conduct a full investigation.

    I’m personally acquainted with many of the 19 district and circuit judges who were on the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council in the Kent matter. Cumulatively, among lawyers who’ve practiced before them, it’s a group that enjoys — and has earned — an awful lot of respect. I do not agree that federal judges, as a rule, facilitate each other’s misconduct through cover-ups, nor that they “go easy” on one another. And indeed, I have a hard time imagining that if they accepted in full the substance of the complaining party’s complaints (as reported in the press from her mother), those nineteen judges would have decreed that a mere four-month suspension and public reprimand was an adequate remedy. But such was the vote — without a single written dissent.

    I’m not vouching for Judge Kent, nor even defending him. Whatever conduct did justify the Council’s action must have been fairly ugly. But I think it is a serious mistake to accept the complaints here as if they’ve somehow been proven in full — to the satisfaction of the Council, or a jury, or anyone — and I also think it’s important to keep in mind that nineteen federal judges who’ve actually seen the sworn evidence decided not to recommend impeachment.

    Beldar (7e7631)

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