House unanimously votes for Judge Kent's impeachment

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 22, 2009, 6:21am


Judge Samuel Kent may be taking his time resigning from the federal bench, but the U.S. House of Representatives took only 30 minutes to vote for his impeachment.

On June 19, House members voted unanimously to have the 59-year-old judge for the Southern District of Texas removed from office. Kent began a 33-month federal prison term on June 15 after he pleaded guilty to obstructing an investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted two female employees who worked with him at the Galveston courthouse.

Federal judges are appointed for life, and only their own voluntary resignation or impeachment by Congress can remove them from the bench. Last month, Kent turned in a resignation letter, but made the effective date in June 2010, allowing him to receive his $174,000 annual salary while he is in prison.

His delay in resigning prompted Congress to move quickly toward impeachment. According to the Houston Chronicle, not one member of the House testified on Kent's behalf before the impeachment vote and the vote to approve four articles of impeachment took less than half an hour.

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.

Kent has said battles with alcoholism and depression since the death of his first wife contributed to his unlawful behavior. He pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge in exchange for dropping the sexual assault charges.

He is serving time at a Massachusetts facility that provides medical and mental health services to federal inmates.

The case now goes to the Senate, which will hold a trial to determine whether he should be removed from the bench.

House members repeatedly cited the graphic, sworn testimony presented to a House Judiciary Committee task force by the judge's former case manager and former legal secretary who both described ongoing humiliating sexual assaults by a frequently intoxicated Kent as far back as 2001.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said women deserve "a safe and secure workplace," adding: "We have no ability to ignore it - we must act."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters that he expected the Senate to act quickly.

"Judge Kent's behavior is so reprehensible and the facts are so clear that I would think this is something that could well be done virtually by unanimous consent or with very limited debate in the Senate," Cornyn said.

The House has only impeached a federal judge 14 times since 1803, the Chronicle reported. Seven of those were removed by the Senate, for were acquitted and two resigned before their Senate trial.

More News