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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Admonishes Judge Samuel B. Kent for Sexual Harassment of a Judiciary Employee:

Here's the order, which is short on details, but which does say that Judge Kent's actions "violated the mandates of the Canons of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and are deemed prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts and the administration of justice." The details of the complaint are apparently to remain confidential.

The "appropriate remedial action" for the judge has apparently been a four-month leave of absence from the bench, plus unspecified "other measures." Recall that federal judges are generally protected from most job-related penalties, short of impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate.

Cornellian (mail):
It's an interesting question to what extent he's now required to recuse himself from hearing sexual harassment claims.
9.28.2007 6:39pm
TerrencePhilip:
From what I have read about Judge Kent, he seems like the worst example of federal judicial arrogance, almost a living stereotype; he's the guy who issued the opinion ridiculing lawyers in a maritime case, suggesting they were written in "crayon." (Imagine if you'd written that kind of criticism of a judge's ruling in a court filing.)

In other cases he has ordered the parties to stop filing post-trial motions, apparently not wanting to be bothered with JNOVs and the like; the 5th Circuit told him not to enter such orders but he did so again anyway- see 400 F.3d 238 ("We are dismayed, to say the least, that, notwithstanding the above directive to the district court, it employed this improper procedure again. We remind the district court that ordering parties to forgo their rights under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is outside the scope of its authority"). In a nice touch, the 5th Circuit in that case nonetheless ruled against the party who had not filed a response out of obedience to Kent's order- apparently they should've just happily been held in contempt by Kent.

It is not surprising to learn that a guy like this thinks he can get away with anything. And his punishment looks like a 4-month paid vacation.
9.28.2007 7:23pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
For another one of Judge Kent's notoriously nasty opinions, click here.

For my essay about him in the Green Bag, click here.
9.28.2007 7:31pm
Ed Unneland (mail):
It is a four-month vacation, and his cases are redistributed to the other District Judges who are now being penalized for behaving themselves properly. I know the commission that looked into this thought otherwise, but I've always been sympathetic to Raoul Berger's argument that something along the lines of quo warranto or scire facias could be given to the federal judiciary to police their own.
9.28.2007 8:06pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Mr. Lubet: You really called this one, years ahead of everyone else.

Do you think he is an appropriate candidate for impeachment?
9.28.2007 8:06pm
Guest231:
Why did the Fifth Circuit bury this by issuing its opinion on a Friday and then not even telling the public what he did?
9.28.2007 8:13pm
MikeC&F (mail):
What possible justification exists for keeping the disciplinary record of a public official sealed?

The older I get, the more I can understand why wronged litigants accuse judges are being a party of a conspiracy. Of course, those litigants are often crazy; but examples like Judge Kent - and, of course, Judge Manuel Real - don't help the public's perception.

Indeed, one might say that the panel's decision to schroud Kent's despicable conduct (it had to have been really, really bad or else he most assuredly would not have been sanctioned) in secrecy is "prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts and the administration of justice."

If Judge Kent wants to chase skirts on his own time, that's his own business. But when Judge Kent sexually harasses court employees (or anyone else) on the public's dime, then the public has a right to know.
9.28.2007 8:19pm
MikeC&F (mail):
Why did the Fifth Circuit bury this by issuing its opinion on a Friday and then not even telling the public what he did?

Great question. One might wonder if the Fifth Circuit panel was more concerned with protecting Judge Kent than they were concerned with protecting the public?

Self-policing doesn't work. Lawyer discipline is a joke, as is judicial discipline. Cops get upset when other cops punish them for violating the law.

But nothing will change. Ten years from now, the Judge Kents of the world will remain in powerful positions, free to sexually harass court employees.
9.28.2007 8:25pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
My bet is that he assented to this punishment in return for the Court of Appeals promising to keep the details oblique, and further promising not to refer the matter to Congress for impeachment
9.28.2007 8:57pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Two points:

First, whatever Kent did, it has to have been a heck of a lot more than skirt chasing.

Second, I think we have now established that exactly the same conversation is taking place on every floor of every major lawfirm in the United States simultaneously.

So who's going to make the motion before the 5th Circuit to have this unsealed?

Apart from the obvious (litigants with cases on appeal), shouldn't the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Comittee on impeachments (I forget the title) have some interest in seeing this?
9.28.2007 9:04pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
Here is some additional information from the Galveston County Daily News.
9.28.2007 9:30pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Credit is to the 9th Circuit for at least publishing what the Manny Real matter was all about. The 5th Circuit is running a protectionist racket with sealing this. The House ought to drag in the 5th Circuit judges and ask them why they are sealing this.
9.28.2007 9:36pm
Mr. X (www):
One hopes that this will discourage people from citing some of Judge Kent's more intemperate and poorly reasoned opinions, e.g. his rulings on the admissibility of web site evidence.
9.28.2007 9:48pm
MikeC&F (mail):
First, whatever Kent did, it has to have been a heck of a lot more than skirt chasing.

Good point. To get called out, Kent must have done something in between skirt chasing and rape. Given that everyone is keeping it confidential, I am inclined to think it's closer to the heinous end of the moral spectrum.
9.28.2007 10:10pm
MikeC&F (mail):
From the story Lubert linked to: "Kent continues to collect his $165,000 salary while he is off the bench."

Sweet. Would someone please punish me? (Er... Judge Kent.... if you're reading this, I do not mean that kind of punishment.)
9.28.2007 10:14pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
For the same reasons I was not happy with oval office shenanigans, I am equally disgusted with this situation.

I am of the opinion that a federal judge who is adjudged guilty of sexual harassment should be sufficient cause for removal from office.

Just to make sure you all understand me, I know it is not now sufficient cause; I just think it should be.

Judge Kent should resign if he has any common decency and sense of honor.
9.28.2007 10:21pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
My grammar sucks in the above post, but I am sure you understand what I mean.
9.28.2007 10:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Does "unspecified" mean horsewhipping by the victim's brothers? If not, why not?

More to the point, in terms of public policy, what are judges in general going to do to convince the public that this is an aberration?


Nothing?

I thought so.
9.29.2007 1:21am
Guest231:
It wouldn't surprise me if this is being kept secret because of Chief Judge Jones. She rules with an iron fist, is not a big fan of claims of sexual harrasment, and is not the type to want something like this aired in public.
9.29.2007 1:31am
PersonFromPorlock:

...shouldn't the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Comittee on impeachments (I forget the title) have some interest in seeing this?

"Don't trouble trouble and trouble won't trouble you."
9.29.2007 3:32am
Mr. Y:
While I'm hardly a big fan of Judge Kent (believe me, the portrait of him as a bully that comes out of Prof. Lubet's Green Bag essay just barely scratches the surface -- talk to anyone who appears before him regularly), but a lot of the mud being slung at the Fifth Circuit over this simply isn't accurate.

Take, for example, the comment that Judge Jones "rules with an iron fist, is not a big fan of claims of sexual harrasment, and is not the type to want something like this aired in public." Any shred of proof for this load of BS? Speak with any of the judges in the Fifth Circuit, her former employees, or people who know her from the Fifth Circuit Judicial Conference, Texas State Bar Foundation, American Inns of Court, the Federalist Society, etc., and I daresay that you'll find out how absurdly wrong this vision of Judge Jones is. (Paging Todd Zywicki . . .)

As far as the various hopes of getting the details of this matter and whether the Fifth Circuit's actions in keeping them confidential are inappropriate, perhaps we all need to take a deep breath and perhaps read the statute in play (28 USC 360(a))? While I'm not an expert on this particular statute, it seems to me that Congress has largely tied the court's hands on this one. While I think the details of something like this *should* be made public (and, as pointed out in the news article referenced in an earlier comment, the complainant can go public with the charges if she wants), it's hard to fault the judicial counsel for applying the law as written.
9.29.2007 9:32am
Houston Lawyer:
First the punishment, then the oral sex.
9.29.2007 10:23am
Mr. Y:
More details on the apparent basis for the complaint against Judge Kent:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/5172731.html

The fact that the complaintant has hired Rusty Hardin tells me that a lot more details will be made public soon enough.
9.29.2007 10:50am
fasdf (mail):
Does "unspecified" mean horsewhipping by the victim's brothers? If not, why not? 中国呼吸网 肿瘤网
9.30.2007 4:38am
anduril (mail):
Gotta luv this from the Houston Chronicle:


When asked if the tribunal of judges investigating the incident has an obligation to report a potential criminal act against a court employee, Joe St. Amant, the spokesman for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said, "That's a complicated matter."


Gosh, is it as complicated as, less complicated than or more complicated than reporting potential criminal conduct by a lawyer or law enforcement officer?
9.30.2007 10:48am
tsotha:
Bah. It was the judiciary that created sexual harassment law. He should be out on his ear (where does that come from, anyway?), just like I or any other cubicle drone would be. Where is the multi-multi-million dollar penalty and the round of sensitivity classes for everyone in the building?
10.1.2007 7:01pm