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Impeachment of Hon. Samuel B. Kent

Judge, Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas
(Part I)   Part II
While serving his sentence in federal prison, Fifth Circuit Judge Samuel B. Kent, 59, who pled guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with an indictment for unwanted sexual advances against two female employees, requested a ruling for a disability retirement, claiming bipolar disorder.  A ruling of a mental or physical disability would enable Kent to draw a full salary of $174,000 and benefits for the rest of his life.  Unless disabled, federal judges lose their retirement benefits if they leave the bench before age 65 and 15 years of service.

The U.S.House of Representatives responded by accelerating the impeachment process to strip Kent of all retirement benefits.  Recognizing that impeachment and subsequent conviction by the Senate would result in his removal and the loss of his annuity, Judge Kent submitted a letter of resignation to take effect June 1, 2010, thus entitling him to another year with salary.

On June 19, 2009, the House of Representatives approved four articles of impeachment against Judge Kent.  Faced with the additional humiliation of a U.S. Senate trial, Kent chose to resign immediately and submitted a letter of resignation effective June 30, 2009, to the Senate.  If approved by President Obama, Kent's resignation would avert his forced removal from the bench by the Senate.

Judge Kent resigns amid impeachment proceedings
June 25, 2009

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent resigned via an unusual no-frills letter that he hand-delivered in prison to two Senate officials who had come to serve a summons on him as part of ongoing impeachment proceedings in the Congress of the United States.

The resignation of Kent, a convicted felon who had continued to collect his $174,000 a year salary in prison, was announced to the surprised participants at the first meeting of the Senate's impeachment trial committee on Thursday afternoon in Washington D.C. The committee is chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, who announced Kent had handed in a resignation, effective June 30th, 2009, on plain paper to the Senate's sergeant-at-arms during an official prison visit.

Kent had earlier offered to resign in mid 2010 — a move that angered officials in the House of Representatives who quickly voted to impeach him rather than let him collect his salary for the first year of his 33-month sentence. He could only be removed from office after a trial in the U.S. Senate. Kent pled guilty earlier this year to obstruction of justice and admitted to sexually molesting two women who worked for him when he served as the lone federal judge in Galveston.

But when Senate officials showed up at the Devens Federal Medical Center in Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon, Kent gave them a one-sentence resignation. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, who served as one of the House managers for Kent's impeachment, told the Chronicle Thursday that he was "pleased to learn that Judge Kent has resubmitted his resignation, this time effective on June 30, 2009."

"Kent's realization that we would not allow him to take advantage of the system proves that the system works and justice has been served," he said. " I hope this process reminds other judges that they are not above the laws they took an oath to uphold. I hope the women Mr. Kent assaulted will find some closure in this man being behind bars and no longer being able to serve on the bench or collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that the original letter of resignation would be delivered to the President and a certified copy to the House of Representatives.

In separate statement, House impeachment managers and Senate leaders said that after Kent's resignation is accepted by the President, first the House of Representatives and then the Senate would determine what — if any — further action is necessary.

Congressman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House Manager said: "Judge Kent's conduct undermined the institution of the Judiciary and the public's confidence...  Regrettably, impeachment was necessary to secure his removal from office, but I believe his resignation, when accepted by the President, will obviate the need to put his victims through any further ordeal." Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the lead Republican Manager, said he was glad that Kent "has finally decided to take himself off of the taxpayers' payroll."

Terry Yates, a Houston attorney for Donna Wilkerson, a legal secretary who was one of Kent's victims, said his client was happy to know she would not have to face a trial in the Senate and be forced again to publicly tell her painful story of abuse.

Rusty Hardin, a lawyer who represented Cathy McBroom, Kent's former case manager who first blew the whistle on his abuse in 2007, said the resignation brought an end to a long "ordeal" for both women.

"I'm glad Kent finally did the decent thing and spared them from having to testify before the Senate...  I'm happy and I'm surprised," he said.

Copyright 2009, Houston Chronicle

From: Lise Olsen, "Judge Kent resigns amid impeachment proceedings," Houston Chronicle, June 25, 2009, http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6497788.html, accessed 06/25/09.  Lise Olsen can be contacted at lise.olsen@chron.com.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.

U.S. House approves Kent impeachment
June 20, 2009

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved four articles of impeachment against imprisoned federal Judge Samuel B. Kent on Friday. The move sets the stage for a possible trial in the Senate.

By voting to approve each article separately, House members authorized Kent's impeachment on the grounds of high crimes and misdemeanors. No member voted against impeaching Kent.

The Senate is likely to convene a trial before its August recess to remove Kent from the bench, Professor Arthur Hellman, an expert on judicial discipline, said.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said only 13 federal judges have been impeached and fewer convicted. Kent abused his power blatantly and granted favors for his own personal gain, Conyers said.

"He was entrusted to render justice, and he has instead sought to evade it," Conyers said during the debate on the House floor.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, quoted Kent's criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin as saying Congress has better things to do than impeach his client.

"Every day judge Kent remains on the bench is one day too long," Smith said. "I hope the Senate will act quickly to ensure justice for victims and the American people."

Guilty Of Obstruction

Kent, 59, pleaded guilty Feb. 23 to obstruction of justice. In exchange, federal prosecutors dropped charges that stemmed from Kent's admitted non-consensual sexual contact with his former caseworker, Cathy McBroom, and secretary, Donna Wilkerson.

Kent, a U.S. District Court Judge who presided in Galveston for almost 20 years, reported Monday to Federal Medical Center Devens in Ayer, Mass., following his May 11 sentencing to 33 months in prison. He could be released Nov. 11, 2011, on good behavior.

Although Kent announced earlier this month his intention to resign June 1, 2010, the only way to remove Kent from the bench and end his $174,000 annual salary is by impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Kent's resignation letter isn't worth the paper it's written on.

"There is nothing to prevent him withdrawing his resignation at any time," Goodlatte said.

'He Should Have Resigned'

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said there was no reason for Kent to remain on the bench.

"What we have here is a sitting judge who committed sexual abuse and repeatedly lied about it," Johnson said. "He should have resigned but didn't have the decency to do that. Now we must do what we have to do."

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, a Republican whose district includes part of Galveston County, applauded the House's swift impeachment.

"Judge Kent admitted to a felony and then refused to do the right thing and step down," Olson said. "Instead, he opted to try to bilk taxpayers for more federal benefits. Today Congress said no to the judge and yes to justice."

The road to Kent's possible removal from the bench included recommendations of impeachment from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the House Committee on the Judiciary, which last week approved the four articles of impeachment citing high crimes and misdemeanors.

The Constitution, however, doesn't explicitly say whether the Senate must consider articles of impeachment, said Hellman, a professor at the Pittsburgh School of Law who testified June 3 before a task force of the House Judiciary Committee as an expert on judicial discipline.

"I don't know of any case where a judge has not resigned and the Senate didn't take up the articles of impeachment," Hellman said, noting he was quite confident the Senate would follow suit as it had on the last two impeachments.

Once the House delivers the impeachment articles to the Senate, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid said he hoped to proceed to trial in as timely a manner as possible, Regan Lachapelle, spokeswoman for the Nevada Democrat, said.

Speed Of Impeachment

The Senate likely would not overlook the speed with which the House acted to impeach Kent, Hellman said.

"This week, they really made some special efforts to move this through quickly, and I think the Senate feels some obligation to respect what the House has done and put aside other business as necessary to get it done fast," Hellman said.

Hellman predicted the Senate could convene 12 members to hear evidence rather than have a trial before the full body, as was done with former President Bill Clinton. The full Senate would then vote, he said.

A two-thirds majority is required to remove Kent from office.

Judge Walter Nixon, who was impeached May 10, 1989, was removed from office Nov. 3 that year. He lost his appeal.

"Judge Nixon objected to all the Senate not sitting through trial," Hellman said, noting every senator had access to the trial through video but wasn't required to watch.

Hellman also noted similarities between Kent and former U.S. District Judge Harry Eugene Claiborne, who was impeached and removed from office Oct. 9, 1986.

"There was widespread outrage Judge Kent is collecting his salary while in prison, and certainly with Claiborne's impeachment trial I see no reason why it would be viewed differently," Hellman said. "The Senate was outraged then, and I expect it will be outraged now. With the combination of outrage in the House and Senate, I expect them to move very quickly on this."

Copyright 2009, The Galveston County Daily News

From: Chris Paschenko, "U.S. House approves Kent impeachment," The Daily News, Galveston County, Tx., June 20, 2009, http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=c918c8e7c21d805c, accessed 06/21/09.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.

House impeaches federal judge from Texas
June 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC — The House on Friday impeached a federal judge imprisoned for lying about sexual assaults of two women, in the first such vote since impeaching former President Bill Clinton a decade ago.

The impeachment of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas sets up a trial in the Senate. Kent is the first federal judge impeached in 20 years. The House approved four articles of impeachment against Kent, accusing him of sexually assaulting two female employees and lying to judicial investigators and Justice Department officials. All four articles passed unanimously.

"The conduct at issue here is both shocking and shameful," Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the start of the debate.

Kent, 59, entered a federal prison in Massachusetts on Monday to serve a 33-month sentence. He pleaded guilty last month to lying to judicial investigators about sexual assaults of two female employees. Kent is refusing to resign until next year so he can continue to draw his $174,000 a year salary. If he is convicted of the impeachment charges in the Senate, he will be forced off the bench.

When contacted for comment, Kent's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, cited an earlier statement in which he said Kent's troubles might be enough for impeachment in the House but would not produce conviction in the Senate. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said he was not unsympathetic to Kent, who has said he has suffered depression since his first wife's death and had problems with alcohol abuse. But Smith said Kent does not have the right to continue as a federal judge and collect his salary.

"It is now time for justice — justice for the American people who have been exploited by a judge who violated his oath of office," Smith said.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, sat in the chamber early in the debate. Hastings was acquitted of bribery charges as a federal judge, but later impeached by the House in 1988. The Senate convicted him on similar impeachment charges. The Senate found Clinton not guilty on his impeachment charges.

As part of his plea bargain, Kent admitted that he tried to force Cathy McBroom, his former case manager, into unwanted sex acts in 2003 and 2007, and did the same with Donna Wilkerson, his secretary, from 2004 through at least 2005. The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse. But McBroom's lawyer and her family have used her name publicly in discussing the case. Wilkerson knew her lawyer gave her name to reporters during Kent's trial. Both women also testified before the House committee.

Kent must participate in an alcohol-abuse program while in prison. He also was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to the secretary and case manager whose complaints resulted in the first sex abuse case ever against a sitting federal judge. Kent was nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Bush and has served since 1990.

Copyright 2009, The Associated Press

From: Suzanne Gamboa, "House impeaches federal judge from Texas," The Associated Press, June 19, 2009.   Posted by Expose Corrupt Courts, [Blog] http://exposecorruptcourts.blogspot.com/2009/06/house-impeaches-federal-judge-from.html, accessed 06/23/09.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.









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