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Legal Ethics

Impeachment Task Force Hustles After Judge Kent Seeks 1 More Year at $174K

Posted Jun 3, 2009 1:53 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An effort by U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent to continue collecting his federal paycheck for almost a year after he reports to prison later this month to serve a 33-month sentence for obstruction of justice apparently is not going over well in Congress.

As graphic testimony by two federal court workers mistreated by Kent began today before a 12-member House Judiciary Committee task force, an unidentified committee staffer told the Houston Chronicle that articles of impeachment for Kent could be approved by the panel as early as next week.

If so, that would allow the House of Representatives to vote before July 4 on whether to impeach Kent, and, if impeachment is approved, the Senate would get the case for trial before the August recess, the newspaper reports.

As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com posts, Kent initially sought to retire early from his lifetime judicial job, citing an unspecified disability. After the judicial council for the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recommended his impeachment, however, he submitted a resignation letter to President Barack Obama—effective June 1, 2010.

By delaying the effective date of his resignation, Kent isn't just trying to hold onto his $174,000 annual salary but is motivated, according to his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, by a desire to retain health benefits for his wife, who suffers from a brain tumor and other medical problems, reports the Associated Press.

In written statements prepared prior to the first day of testimony before the task force today, Kent's former case manager, Cathy Broom, and Donna Wilkerson, a legal secretary, described on-again, off-again sexual harassment by the drunken judge that included unwanted kisses, groping and occasional "sexual touching," as the Chronicle characterizes the judge's alleged misbehavior.

The judge admittedly had an alcohol problem, according to DeGuerin, although Kent says he has now been sober for more than two years. In his obstruction of justice plea, Kent admitted that he had non-consensual sexual contact with the two court workers, but did not plead guilty to sexual abuse charges concerning his treatment of these two court workers.

In his own written testimony, Kent blamed alcoholism, an unspecified personality issue and the death of his first wife from brain cancer for his misbehavior, the Chronicle reports. He pleaded for consideration of his hard work on the bench—saying 13,000 cases during his 18 years on the federal court bench in Texas, asking the panel to "take into account not only my acute failings but also my years of dedication to the service of my country.”

If he is impeached, Kent writes, he will be left "penniless," without the medical insurance he "desperately" needs to treat his diabetes and related complication.

Citing DeGuerin, the Chronicle article says no date has been set for the judge to report to prison. However, the AP article says the federal judge is scheduled to begin serving his sentence on June 15.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Lawmakers Take 1st Step Toward Impeaching Federal Judge Samuel Kent"

ABAJournal.com: "Judge Kent Apologizes to His Family, But Not Claimed Sexual Abuse Victims"

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