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Legal Ethics

Chronicle: Cry Us a River—And Punish Judge Kent By Axing His Pension

Posted Mar 9, 2009 3:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Since a gag order was lifted that prevented lawyers involved from talking about the federal criminal case against U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has had much to say about Kent's sad situation after the death of his wife of many years.

But Kent for years been "boorish and bullying" toward those who appeared before him, and it's now time for him to take his medicine concerning his own wrongdoing, writes the Houston Chronicle in an editorial yesterday.

The editorial doesn't offer any thoughts about the sentence Kent should get after pleading guilty to obstruction. (He admitted in the plea agreement to nonconsensual sexual contact with two court workers, although he did not plead guilty to aggravated sexual abuse charges related to the obstruction case.)

But it does call for Congress to impeach Kent, so that he can't collect a federal disability pension after serving on the on the bench for nearly two decades.

"Cry us a river," the newspaper writes, in response to DeGuerin's efforts to elicit public sympathy. "Judge Kent’s predicament leaves us completely unmoved. He put himself there and deserves the ultimate constitutional penalty for misconduct by a federal judge—impeachment by Congress."

In letters to the editor of the newspaper, however, several writers say Kent is already being punished enough without suffering the loss of his retirement benefits.

Attorney Peter Riga, who appeared before Kent, says the judge was strict but fair and "his tenure on the bench for almost 20 years was exemplary from the point of view of the law." Hence, taking away his pension, Riga writes, would be "hateful and vindictive. Let the man go off into the sunset of his life, humiliated and humbled. Enough of punishment and more of mercy. His sins are not unforgivable."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Wife’s Death Put Judge Kent in Downward Spiral, His Lawyer Says"

Blog of Legal Times: "Concern Grows in House Over Former Federal Judge"

ABAJournal.com: "Gag Order Lifted in Judge Kent Case; Congressman Opposes ‘Disability’ Plan"

ABAJournal.com: "Judge Kent Pleads Guilty to Obstruction"

Volokh Conspiracy (2007): "The Ethical Cloud Over Judge Samuel B. Kent"

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