Marilyn Tennissen May. 28, 2009, 9:36am
Former U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent tried to blame his sexual attacks of female staff members on alcoholism and mental illness, but the Judicial Council for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't buying it.
Instead, on May 27 the court denied Kent's request for disability status and recommended that he be impeached.
Kent is facing a 33-month prison sentence beginning in June after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in the investigation of charges that he sexually harassed court employees. Disability status would have allowed Kent to retire from the bench with his full $174,000 annual salary even while in prison.
In a letter to Kent's attorney Dick DeGuerin, Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote that the judge did not appear to be disabled or impaired since up until his indictment he continued to handle a large volume of cases in the Houston federal court and did so expeditiously.
"A claimant should not profit from his own wrongdoing by engaging in criminal misconduct and then collecting a federal retirement salary for the disability related to the prosecution," Jones wrote.
Jones did acknowledge that Kent was mentally unstable and that alcoholism may have been a catalyst for some of his behavior.
His former case manager claimed the judge sexually attacked her in 2003 and 2007, but a judicial council gave Kent only a reprimand for sexual harassment. A long-time secretary also came forward with allegations that she had been repeatedly attacked by Kent.
He was indicted on felony sexual assault charges and obstruction of justice, and later pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge if the assault charges were dropped.
"The medical reports paint a picture of a man who has had psychological problems in dealing with the high authority inherent in his position, with those whom he viewed as subordinates and with women," Jones wrote.
But Jones did not find evidence to support the classification of Kent as disabled.
The court also urged the Judicial Conference, a policy making panel of the appellate courts, to take "expeditious action" toward impeachment.
Only Congress can impeach a federal judge, and a U.S. House committee has set a hearing date for June 3 to discuss the impeachment issue, according to a story by The Associated Press.
Until he resigns or is impeached, Kent will keep getting a paycheck.