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US House votes to impeach federal judge for sexual harassment, obstruction

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] Friday approved four separate articles of impeachment [text, PDF] against Judge Samuel Kent [official profile; JURIST news archive] of the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Kent is the first federal judge to be impeached in 20 years, and only the thirteenth federal judge ever to be impeached. No members of the House voted against the resolution that was adopted without amendment and based on an earlier report [text, PDF] of the House Committee on the Judiciary [official website]. Kent's alleged "high crimes and misdemeanors" to be tried in the US Senate [official website] include sexual harassment of his secretary, sexual harassment of his case manager, obstructing a judicial proceeding by making false statements, and making false and misleading statements to federal agents during his investigation. An impeachment conviction would remove Kent from the bench before his resignation date. Kent wrote a letter of resignation [JURIST report] to President Obama earlier this month, but since it is not effective until June 2010, he would continue to receive his salary.

Kent pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to a criminal charge of obstruction of justice in May in a plea agreement [text, PDF] that prevented him from being the first federal judge to go on criminal trial for sexual harassment. 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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