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Federal Judge Who Sexually Harassed Employee Is Being Moved to Houston:

The Houston Chronicle reports:

An order issued today by an executive session of judges from the U.S. Southern District of Texas calls for U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent to move from Galveston, where he was the only federal judge, to Houston....

The order issued today redistributes Kent's Galveston cases among other Houston judges. The order did not say when, if ever, Kent would return to Galveston. David Bradley, chief deputy clerk for the Southern District, said Kent would remain in Houston until a new order was issued allowing him to return to Galveston.

Federal judges will continue to hear cases in the Galveston court room, but they will commute from Houston.

More on the Judge Kent matter in these posts.

SP:
But was the order written in crayon?
10.25.2007 10:44pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
SP: Yep, on a Big Chief tablet.

Heh.

What is this supposed to solve, other than requiring the judges here in Houston to waste gas driving 55 minutes to Galveston (or longer with lots of Houston traffic... half the journey is the first 4 miles out of Houston)? It's not like we need another bad, elderly, pompous judge in the Houston Divison of the SDTX (just to be clear, that comment does not refer to or include Lee Rosenthal, who is an excellent federal judge and should be on the 5th Circuit by now).

Is the logic that with other judges around he'll act more mature? If so, that doesn't work when you have Article III running through your blood. If they are moving him to Houston to get him away from the court employee(s) who complained about him, that seems like a bad way to solve the problem. There are many more court employees at the courthouse here in Houston (much bigger court including some 5th circuit judges) versus the small courthouse in Galveston where he was the only judge. More employees just increases the chances he will mistreat one of them, right? Better he work around 10 employees than 150, I think.
10.26.2007 12:56am
lucifer:
to be fair, you might say 'allegedly harassed' as there has been no finding. also, according to press reports (Texas Lawyer article from a few weeks ago), the accuser now works in the clerk's office in the Houston division, where the judge is now being transferred. had the the powers that be believed her allegations of harassment, it seems unlikely they would have gone out of their way to put the accuser and accused back together again like this.
10.26.2007 12:59am
TerrencePhilip:
had the the powers that be believed her allegations of harassment, it seems unlikely they would have gone out of their way to put the accuser and accused back together again like this.

Did the "powers that be" suspend and admonish him because they thought the woman was lying?
10.26.2007 1:09am
neurodoc:
to be fair, you might say 'allegedly harassed' as there has been no finding. also...the accuser now works in the clerk's office in the Houston division...had the the powers that be believed her allegations of harassment, it seems unlikely they would have gone out of their way to put the accuser and accused back together again like this.
OK, "allegedly harassed," since reportedly there were other concerns about the judge's fitness. But it is fair to conclude, isn't it, that they satisfied themselves that his conduct, whatever it was, deserved to be sanctioned. How important are the particulars, and might not a finding of sexual harassment, however embarassing, have less serious implications for his fitness to serve on the bench than other possibilities which might affect those whose cases he decides?
10.26.2007 1:16am
Roger Schlafly (www):
But it is fair to conclude, isn't it, that they satisfied themselves that his conduct, whatever it was, deserved to be sanctioned. How important are the particulars, ...
No, that is not fair. Maybe Kent has some personal enemies. Maybe a minor incident was overblown. Maybe Kent is unfit for reasons unrelated to harassment. We don't know.

If he committed a crime, then charge him and impeach him. If the allegations are so trivial that no one is even willing to describe them publicly, then we should not assume that he is guilty of anything of significance.

My tentative assumption is that Kent is being unfairly maligned. I cannot see any other explanation for eight posts attacking him, without anyone saying what he did that was so bad.
10.26.2007 1:34am
Jiffy:
Seems the judiciary has taken a page from the Catholic church's playbook. Good luck with that.
10.26.2007 2:08am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Isn't it standard practice for the judiciary review committees not to list the details/particulars underlying any actions they take in sanctioning or otherwise punishing a judge? If the judge gets impeached, of course all the details then come out. Then again, these days, I can imagine a closed, secret impeachment hearing (the constitution doesn't say they have to be public) when the target is a republican.

Roger: For what it's worth, Kent is known for a few crazy but funny published opinions, but he doesn't have a reputation down here as being a particularly horrible or mean judge. He's been down in the galveston courthouse for a long, long time, and I can't think of any lawyer I know who can't stand the guy, or thinks he should not be on the bench for reasons of competency. There are meaner, more pompous judges down here in the SDTX (e.g. Hughes) who are far more disliked by members of the bar, in general, than Kent is. Plus, considering Kent is a republican/conservative, as is the 5th Circuit (even moreso), the 5th Circuit's reprimand was certainly not a partisan affair.
10.26.2007 4:10am
Roger Schlafly (www):
I don't know anything about Kent, but I am baffled as to why anyone would think that the punishment from a closed hearing is insufficient, and that he deserves more punishment. How would anyone know? How would you even know that he got a fair hearing, or that any of the charges have merit? Something is fishy here.
10.26.2007 5:27am
The Pathetic Earthling (mail):
To paraphrase Smith v. Colonial Penn, 943 F. Supp. 782 (S.D. Tex. 1996):

[Judge Kent] should be assured that [he] is not embarking on a three-week-long trip via covered wagons when it travels [from] Galveston. Rather, [Judge Kent] will be pleased to discover that the highway is paved and lighted all the way to [Houston], and thanks to the efforts of [his] predecessor, Judge Roy Bean, the trip should be free of rustlers, hooligans, or vicious varmints of unsavory kind. Moreover, the speed limit was recently increased to seventy miles per hour on most of the road leading [from] Galveston, so [Judge Kent] should be able to hurtle to [dispense] justice at lightning speed. To assuage [Judge Kent]'s worries about the inconvenience of the drive, the Court notes that Houston's Hobby Airport is located about equal drivetime from downtown Houston and the Galveston courthouse. [His Honor] will likely find it an easy, traffic-free ride [from] Galveston as compared to a congested, construction-riddled drive [from] downtown Houston. The Court notes that any inconvenience suffered in having to drive [from] Galveston may likely be offset by the peacefulness of the ride and the scenic beauty of the sunny isle.
10.26.2007 10:28am
Happyshooter:
Do they 1) want tokeep an eye on him; 2) want to remove him from being such an authority figure; or 3) think the women in Houston are more 'go along to get along'?
10.26.2007 10:34am
Houston Lawyer:
There are far more strip clubs in Houston, so maybe he asked to be transferred here.

The vast majority of this string is pure speculation, which I admit is fun. However, it would be nice if we had an open government that would actually tell us what is going on.
10.26.2007 11:09am
neurodoc:
No, that is not fair...My tentative assumption is that Kent is being unfairly maligned. I cannot see any other explanation for eight posts attacking him, without anyone saying what he did that was so bad.

So long as everything remains under seal any inference would be "unfair"? I think it entirely reasonable to infer from what we do know that Judge Kent did something warranting rather severe sanctions. You think otherwise in view of the fact that the 19 federal judges of the Fifth Circuit Judicial Conference took the highly unusual step of so publically disciplining one of their own, and Judge Kent has remained silent? (He could, couldn't he, release relevant records and/or speak out if he believed that he was being dealt with unfairly and/or wanted to correct any impression that his conduct was more grievous than in fact it was. Or has he been gagged, too?)

It seems that no one here has inside information about what Judge Kent was accused of or the Judicial Conference's findings, or at least no one has come forward to share such personal knowledge of the matter. The eight posts you refer to, were I believe all Professor Somin's, at least one of them in response to another blogger's attempted rebuttal of what the professor had written. How do those eight posts, focused largely on legal considerations in the disciplining of sitting federal judges and with no serious speculation about what the Judicial Conference "must" have determined to be the facts, lead you to the "tenative assumption... that Kent is being unfairly maligned"?

I know nothing about Judge Kent other than what I have read here and at the links in these posts about Kent. All I mean to address is the reasonableness of the inferences that have been drawn by the VC and those responding to them in the comments sections of these threads. I do think for the inferences have been reasonable, that is not "unfair." As to whether the discipline imposed was too little, too much, or just right, I would agree we are not in a position to judge, which raises the question of how appropriate/ inappropriate it is to keep it all under seal, and whose interests are being served by doing so.
10.26.2007 12:03pm
taney71:
I thought only the circuit court had the power to do these things?

What federal law are the judges relying on in this action? Moving a federal judge to another seat seems like it would go against what Congress directed.
10.26.2007 12:31pm
JohnO (mail):
taney71:

Congress directed Judge Kent to the Southern District of Texas, not to a particular courthouse in that district. I suspect that this is an administrative matter within the chief judge's purview or that of the court as a whole.

If the report from a comentator above is true, that the court employee at issue had been moved to Houston, I wonder if the plan is to send her back to Galveston on the theory that she is the wrong party to have to bear the burden of a commute to a more distant courthouse.
10.26.2007 1:51pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
The 5C order just says that a committee investigated Kent for inappropriate behavior towards employees, and a majority of the Council accepted the committee's recommendations.

Somin goes much farther. He has inside knowledge about Kent, and he said that Congress should consider impeaching him. Eugene now says that Kent sexually harassed an employee, even tho the 5C order does not go that far, and the Houston Chronicle story doesn't either. Either they know something that we don't, or they made a rush to judgment based on flimsy evidence.

It is reasonable to infer that Kent behaved in some way that triggered the disapproval of a majority of the Council. It is not reasonable to infer that Kent has committed a crime, or that he sexually harassed anyone, or that an impeachment investigation is warranted, or that he deserves any punishment in excess of what he has already received.
10.26.2007 2:25pm
taney71:
JohnO:

Thanks so much. For some reason I thought the judge was moving around the districts in the circuit court system.
10.26.2007 3:27pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Judge Hayden Head is currently the chief judge of the Southern District of Texas (which includes both the Houston and Galveston divisions). It is an administrative matter to move judges (and magistrate judges) around within a district. In federal court, a federal judge is his own court. In state court, where judges typically don't have lifetime appointments, they normally fill a named court (the 103rd District Court, the 15th Superior Court, etc.).

Whether a federal judge has a courtroom in which to operate, however, is a different issue. It would be interesting if Kent were transferred (by other A-III judges) to the nonexistant "Woodlands Division" of the Southern District of Texas, where no federal courthouse exists. What could he do, other than acquire space and run his court out of an apartment or office... or he could use a public park or something. His bench could be a tree stump.
10.26.2007 5:24pm
lucifer:
several possible reason present themselves for the transfer:

(1) to remedy perceived favoritism toward certain lawyers, which was apparently part of the investigation and may have been the real basis for the reprimand -- in Houston judge-roulette wheel, lawyers are much less able to select him as judge as in a single judge division. this would also jibe with earlier action in May of randomly assigning 30 % of docket to Houston;

(2) as a way to motivate him to resign - kind of like the practice at some big lawfirms of reassigning retired partners from office to office to get them to stop coming to work;

(3) as previous poster suggested, so that other judges can keep him in check. no longer the king of the hill as the sole federal judge in the division, but working in federal building where federal judges are a dime a dozen and people therefore less intimidated, etc;

(4) as one commentator before suggested, to shift the onus of commuting from the accusing employer to the accused judge - though making a federal judge commute so that a court employee doesn't have to kind of seems like the tail wagging the dog.

of course, this is all speculation. but the lack of transparency here give little other choice.
10.26.2007 11:14pm
NickM (mail) (www):
My hunch is that this was done to make Kent dislike his working conditions enough that he chooses to resign from the bench. It has been done before (IIRC it was done wit a federal judge in Nevada a few decades ago).

Nick
10.28.2007 3:03pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
I think "L" has it wrong.

Obviously there are now so many instances of complaints about one form or another of discrimination by those very Federal Judges sworn to uphold the anti-discrimination laws of the United States, that the 5th Circuit felt the necessity to move Kent to a location with sufficient alternative Judges who won't discriminate so as to ensure Kent will disqualify off every case of sexual harassment randomly assigned to him. This is due to the clear unfitness of Kent to sit on ANY sexual harassment case.

Such disqualification from a category of cases over which Kent is unfit to rule would not be possible, or wlould be exceedingly difficult in his former one-Judge Galveston Courthouse.

A similar remedy should apply to any Federal Judge discriminating against any other protected class of litigant -- racial, alienage, disability.
10.28.2007 3:33pm
neurodoc:
Obviously there are now so many instances of complaints about one form or another of discrimination by those very Federal Judges sworn to uphold the anti-discrimination laws of the United States...
(italics added) How many is "so many"? Can the number be reliably quantified, or at least meaningfully estimated? And more importantly, what absolute number or percent of formally lodged complaints are in the end determined to have any merit? If numbers can't be supplied to support "so many," then can we have the identifiers (e.g., case caption or name of the federal judge) for some of the "so many" cases in which complaints of bias on the part of sitting federal judges hearing cases involving the anti-discrimination laws of the United States have been determined to be meritorious?

And then, what makes it "obvious" that the Fifth Circuit judicial conference took into account anything other than the particulars of Judge Kent's case when deciding whether to sanction his conduct, and if so, then how? I don't think I am the only one for whom it is anything but "obvious."

This is due to the clear unfitness of Kent to sit on ANY sexual harassment case.
Based on what the public knows of Judge Kent's case and what the judicial panel found when they investigated the charges leveled against Kent, whatever those may have been, how can any of us reasonably say, "...due to the clear unfitness of Kent to sit on ANY sexual harassment case..."? I disagreed with Roger Schafly about the reasonableness of concluding that Kent must have engaged in some misconduct, saying I did think it reasonable to conclude that he did something(s) improper. But I think he and I must be in complete agreement that it cannot be reasonably concluded based on what we know and can infer that Kent is unfit "to sit on ANY sexual harassment case." He may or may not be, depending on what the judicial panel found, but has not disclosed.

A similar remedy should apply to any Federal Judge discriminating against any other protected class of litigant -- racial, alienage, disability
Doesn't everyone have legally protected rights that federal courts may be called upon to interpret and enforce?

If discrimination on the basis of gender is impermissible except under certain limited circumstances, then do some and not others enjoy special "protection" on account of "gender"? Who would be outside such a "protected" class? While women may be the victims of sexual harassment many times more frequently than men, men too can be victims of sexual harassment, and courts have so ruled, quite properly. Clear misogyny might disqualify someone from sitting on the bench, but so too would many other forms of bias, and that doesn't mean that women are part of a "protected" class, even if some laws may have particularity to women (e.g., those pertaining to pregnancy).

Age discrimination is generally, though not always, impermissible in employment situations. Do we all become part of a "protected class" when we reach 60 +/- x number of years?

"Racial." Discrimination on the basis of race is widely proscribed in employment situations, in housing, etc. And those of color, especially African-Americans, have many, many more times between the victims of discrimination on the basis of "race" than have those without color (i.e., Caucasians). But Caucasians have been discriminated against on the basis of their "race," as courts have found, again properly so. So who among us is a member of an officially "protected" class and who doesn't enjoy the same legal protections as those within the class?

Are those with disabilities that come under the ADA members of a "protected class" because the ADA requires that they be accommodated in certain ways? Perhaps they can be styled a "protected class," but I'm not sure that is a meaningful way to view them (or those not covered by the ADA). I am sure that everyone is entitled to a judge who will decide without bias, on any common or uncommon basis, the merits of their case according to the law and their facts.
10.28.2007 6:04pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
neurodoc, blathering, blah, blah, blah wordy self-serving diatribe.

The one certainly, however, is when you didn't like what I had to say about the Federal Judicial Disability and Misconduct process not being fair, harsh enough, or needing to be dealt with by a disciplinary body outside the Federal Judiciary due to so many discrimination complaints not being appropriately redressed, you chose to direct a defamatory statement towards myself in an malicious effort to discredit me:

"paranoid schizophrenia" (neurodoc linked post),

with knowledge such statement is false or with reckelss disregard for the truth, since that diagnosis in my case was ruled out.

Just because I have autism does not render my viewpoint less importmant than anyone else's or meaningless.
10.29.2007 12:28am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Doesn't everyone have legally protected rights that federal courts may be called upon to interpret and enforce?"

And you KNOW that was not what I said.

I said federal judges who themselves discriminate against litigants of a protected class in federal court in whatever type of case it happens to be should be subject to discipline on a Judicial Complaint. It doesn't matter what type of case they are "interpreting" or "enforcing;" what matters is whether they discriminated against someone during the course of a case, in the employment process, or extra-judicially.
10.29.2007 12:34am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
No one else has posted, but I do have one more comment I believe to be significant.

With respect to my concerns about federal judges who themselves discriminate against litigants of a protected class in federal court,

it is all the more problematic and results in irreparable harm where, like Kent assigning himself to sexual harassment cases when he sexually harassed (allegedly), consider this all too true similar scenario:

a Federal Judge assignes him or herself to a Title II Americans With Disabilities/discrimination case where:

A Florida State Courts Administrator, on behalf of her boss, the State's Chief Justice, makes a written admission of liability under the federal anti-discrimination laws in an e-mail delivered to a disabled assistive technology user on October 29, 2007 that numerous persons with disabilities exist who "rely upon assistive technology" to access Florida State courts and court services:

"One of the considerations in establishing an e-filing system is ensuring that the system is accessible to litigants with disabilities who rely upon assistive technology."

And, the policy setter, Florida State Courts Administrator, on behalf of her boss, the State's Chief Justice, further makes written admission of liability in her e-mail delivered to the disabled assistive technology user on October 29, 2007 of knowingly, intentionally, and with deliberate indifference excluding disabled persons who "rely upon assistive technology" from ANY access to Florida's State Courts System, Florida State courts, and court services in the past, at the present time, and until some unspecified time in the future:

"When electronic filing is formally approved and implemented in a court, you and other court users are welcome to electronically submit case documents in accordance with such policies and procedures as may be established."

The injured disabled assistive technology user-parties (sub-class of disabled who are being discriminated against) bring a Title II ADA discrimination lawsuit (or more than one) in Federal Court, and it (they) get(s) assigned to a Federal Judge who him- or her-self discriminate against these same litigants of the disabled assistive technology protected sub-class in federal court.

What will happen to all these disabled assistive technology users LOCKED OUT from Access to Florida's Courts in the meantime? What irreparable and horrible harms will befall them?

Art. I, Sec. 21 of the Florida Constitution guarantees ALL people the right of Access to the courts of the State of Florida.

There is NO exception written into Art. I, Sec. 21, Florida Constitution authorizing the Florida State Courts Administrator, or her boss, the State's Chief Justice, to exclude a sub-class of disabled assistive technology users from ALL Access to ALL Florida Courts.

Significantly, the Florida State Courts Administrator, on behalf of her boss, the State's Chief Justice, just settled last week with A. Scott Harrison for MONETARY DAMAGES, paying TAXPAYER MONEY to Mr. Harrison for excluding him from Access to the Florida Courts when they refused to provide him with CART real-time services for the deaf and chose to let his clients rot in jail without trials.

Maybe some people like to quibble over the many times irrelevant difference between Federal Judges who themselves discriminate against litigants of a protected sub-class in Federal Court vs. Federal Judges "interpreting" or "enforcing" a Federal anti-discrimination law upon State Court actors who are admitting in writing they are knowingly discriminating against and excluding a sub-class of disabled assistive technology users from these persons' State Constitutional right of Access to the Courts for ALL people. (e.g., Art. I, Sec. 21, Fla. Const.)

May times there is NO difference -- and in such cases the effect is to completely LOCK OUT a protected sub-class from ANY Access to ANY Court, State or Federal.

THIS is why the Federal Judicial Complaint process and procedures should be made substantially more harsh -- discrimination can have VERY significant and irreparable harms.

A person among a sub-class of protected persons under a federal anti-discrimination law should have the right of Access to Federal Court, the only court under such circumstances, that can redress such discrimination.
10.30.2007 3:45pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
corr: "May times there is NO difference" = Many times there is NO difference
10.30.2007 3:48pm