House judiciary committee recommends impeachment of convicted federal judge

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].