Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Federal District Judge "Retires" Under Indictment

Federal judge pleads to obstruction of justice, steps down, Nat'l L.J. web only, Feb. 24, 2009.

Federal Judge Samuel B. Kent, indicted in January on six counts of alleged sexual abuse of two court staff members and obstruction of the investigation, pleaded guilty to obstruction and "retired" his lifetime post Monday.

He is the first federal judge ever indicted for alleged sexual crimes.
Judge Kent achieved some fame for his use of humor to chastise attorneys who practiced before him. For instance, in one case, he said that the lawyers had written their motions in crayon on grease-stained place mats. That case was sent around the Internet and appeared in reading lists in the U.S. law schools -- and even in an Australian judicial training program. For a thoughtful essay on this, see Steven Lubet, Bullying from the Bench, 5 Green Bag 2d 11 (2001). For other examples of judges criticizing lawyers (generally with less hyperbole and fewer cheap shots), see Mary Whisner, When Judges Scold Lawyers, 96 Law Libr. J. 557 (2004).

Once Kent wrote
Manifestly, any person with even a correspondence-course level understanding of federal practice and procedure would recognize that Defendant’s Motion is patently insipid, ludicrous, and utterly and unequivocally without any merit whatsoever. Worse it is just plain blatantly wrong in light of the unambiguous language of a decades old federal statute and veritable mountains of case law addressing venue propriety.
Kent Doesn’t Mince Words, Texas Lawyer, July 16, 2001, at 5, 5 (quoting order in Labor Force v. Jacintoport Corp., No. G-01-058 (S.D. Tex. June 7, 2001)). The order was published in the advance sheet of 144 F. Supp.2d 740 but withdrawn from the bound volume at the request of the court. It was also "Removed from the LEXIS Service at the Request of the Court July 18, 2001." In that case, someone (his colleagues?) persuaded the judge to withdraw the case from publication (but it is still available --it's hard to kill these things once they're out).

Given these examples of Judge Kent's lack of decorum and poor sense of boundaries -- or, as Lubet termed it, his bullying -- it's not too surprising that he also believed that the rules of sexual propriety and workplace respect also did not apply to him. It says something that the conduct was serious enough to end his lifetime appointment.

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