Last week we honored Judge Samuel B. Kent with our prestigious Judge of the Day award, based on his alleged sexual harassment of a court employee. Now the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council has also recognized Judge Kent. From Texas Lawyer:
The Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [on Friday] issued an order reprimanding and admonishing U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston. The order relates to a complaint of judicial misconduct lodged against the judge on May 21 alleging sexual harassment toward an employee of the federal judicial system.
A former case manager for Kent, Cathy McBroom, confirms she filed a complaint against the judge. She declines further comment. McBroom currently works in the clerk’s office in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.
You can access the order here (PDF). But as a tipster notes, “All the juicy stuff will ‘not be disclosed.’ No fun at all.”
Fear not, judicial gossip aficionados. The Houston Chronicle has more details:
Kent is accused of harassing and inappropriately touching his 49-year-old case manager in his chambers in March….
On the day of the incident, other employees saw McBroom crying and visibly upset, according to interviews. A few weeks later, McBroom transferred to another federal court job in Houston. McBroom was so shaken by the encounter, “She (was) a basket case,” an acquaintance said.
McBroom has retained Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who would not comment for now on the particulars of the case.
Not good news for Judge Kent. Hardin is one of Houston’s top trial lawyers.
And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Additional allegations against Judge Kent, after the jump.
Still from the Chronicle:
• That the most recent incident was part of a larger pattern of sexual harassment by the judge against McBroom and other employees.
•That the judge sometimes appeared inebriated on the job.
• That Kent inappropriately favored former colleagues and other favorites in his decisions and in overseeing settlement negotiations. In 2001, Kent was ordered to transfer all cases from his court that were handled by his best friend.
The reprimand from the Judicial Council for the 5th Circuit was issued Friday. But Kent was already serving his punishment, a four-month paid leave of absence, during which he continues to draw a $165,000 salary. His case load was reassigned to other judges and he was ordered to complete other “remedial courses of action,” which are not spelled out in court documents.
Getting placed on paid vacation, during which you earn a six-figure salary, after you allegedly harass a subordinate? Being a federal judge is a pretty good gig.
(Sure, Aaron Charney and Gera Grinberg were placed on paid leave by Sullivan & Cromwell for a time. But they were the alleged victims of the supposed harassment.)
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, former Fifth Circuit clerk Ilya Somin has detailed commentary on Judge Sam Kent. Here’s an excerpt:
[T]his is far from the first time that serious issues have been raised regarding Judge Kent’s judicial ethics. Indeed, it is no secret that Kent is a notorious figure in the Texas legal community and perhaps even nationally.
Here are a few relevant aspects of Judge Kent’s record:
In 2001, the Chief Judge of Southern District of Texas reassigned 85 cases away from Judge Kent, because the cases were being handled by Kent’s best friend Richard Melancon and there were allegations that Kent was engaging in favoritism on his friend’s behalf. In a 2002 decision, a Fifth Circuit panel removed Judge Kent from a case because he had demonstrated open bias against and “hostility” towards one of the parties. Although it is not terribly unusual for litigants to assert that a judge is biased against them, it is relatively rare for appellate courts to accept such claims and remove the judge from the case.
In this 2001 Green Bag article, Northwestern University Law Professor Steven Lubet documented Kent’s notorious courtroom “bullying,” which he condemns as not only obnoxious but unethical.
So what should be done with Judge Kent? Professor Somin opines:
I’m not sure whether Judge Kent’s abuses have reached a point where Congress should impeach him. Much depends on how serious the underlying facts of the sexual harrassment incident are. So far, both the Fifth Circuit (whose personnel are bound by confidentiality rules) and the accuser have maintained a public silence about the details of the case. For obvious separation of powers reasons, the impeachment power should be used only in extreme cases. However, I do think that matters have reached a point where Congress should investigate the issue and give the possibility of impeachment serious consideration.
We concur. When was the last time we had hearings into the impeachment of a federal judge — maybe the Manuel Real proceedings? And the Judge Real hearings were the first such impeachment hearings in almost two decades, since the impeachment of Alcee Hastings (now in Congress, fittingly enough). Don’t devotees of the federal judiciary deserve entertainment at more regular intervals?
Update: The WSJ Law Blog has a short post up about Judge Kent. See here.
In re: Complaint of Judicial Misconduct Against Judge Samuel B. Kent [Judicial Council of the Fifth Circuit (PDF)]
The Ethical Cloud Over Judge Samuel B. Kent [Volokh Conspiracy]
5th Circuit Judicial Council Reprimands and Admonishes Judge Samuel Kent [Texas Lawyer]
Federal judge disciplined for sexual harassment [Houston Chronicle]
Federal Judge Samuel Kent Reprimanded By Fifth Circuit [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: Judge of the Day: Samuel Kent