Kent impeachment process moving quickly in Washington

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 9, 2009, 11:36am

If things keep moving along as they have this week, former federal judge Samuel Kent won't be earning his salary for much longer.

On June 9, a panel of the House Judiciary Committee took only 20 minutes to vote 10-0 to refer articles of impeachment on Kent to the full House Judiciary Committee. The Houston Chronicle reported that Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, were voting members of the panel.

Kent, a U.S. District Court judge who served in Galveston and Houston, is headed to prison next week to begin a 33-month sentence after pleading guilty to an obstruction of justice charge for lying to prosecutors about sexually assaulting two female employees.

Appointed for life, Kent has retired but unless he resigns or is impeached by Congress he will continue to draw his $174,000 annual salary. Last week, he submitted a letter of resignation, but gave it an effective date in 2010. Assuming the impeachment proceedings dragged on for months, Kent would earn money while in prison.

The House panel voted to impeach Kent for "high crimes and misdemeanors," the Houston Chronicle reported.

Charges include conduct that was incompatible with his duty as a judge, impeding an official proceeding and making false statements about his sexual contact with the women who worked for him in the Galveston courthouse.

The full House Judiciary Committee is set to review the charges on June 10, and could vote to send the charges to the House. If the House votes for impeachment, a trial would be held in the Senate.

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