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House judiciary committee recommends impeachment of convicted federal judge

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee [official website] voted [recorded video, RealPlayer] 29-0 Wednesday to approve four articles of impeachment [text] against US district court judge Samuel Kent [official profile] based on his conviction [JURIST report] for obstruction of justice [18 USC § 1512(c)(2) text] in connection with the alleged sexual harassment of his secretary and former case manager. The articles charged that Kent had "engaged in conduct ... incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him as a judge," "corruptly obstructed, influenced, or impeded an official proceeding," and "made material false and misleading statements ... to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," and were recommended to the committee [recorded video, RealPlayer] by a special subcommittee on Tuesday. Kent had tendered his resignation [JURIST report] to President Barack Obama effective June 2010, but a disciplinary panel from the Fifth Circuit has urged [certification letter, PDF; JURIST report] that he be removed more promptly. The articles now go to the full House of Representatives, and if approved, would result in the first impeachment of a federal judge in over 20 years.

In February, Kent pleaded guilty to lying to a judicial panel [Fifth Circuit materials] investigating sexual harassment allegations made by his former case manager and legal secretary. He was sentenced [JURIST report] in May to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $6,500 in restitution as part of his plea agreement [text, PDF]. In 2007, the American Bar Association (ABA) [professional association] adopted new policies reforming the Model Code of Judicial Conduct [JURIST report], which for the first time included prohibitions against sexual harassment, although some advocacy groups believe these changes do not go far enough [AP report].

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