Samuel B. Kent
|Samuel B. Kent|
|United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas|
October 1, 1990 – June 30, 2009
|Appointed by||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Hugh Gibson|
June 22, 1949 |
|Alma mater||University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas School of Law
Samuel B. Kent (born June 22, 1949, Denver, Colorado) is a former U.S District Court judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, who served in the single-judge Galveston Division covering Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, and Matagorda Counties. He was nominated by President George H.W. Bush on August 3, 1990, to a seat vacated by Hugh Gibson, confirmed by the United States Senate on September 28, 1990, and received his commission on October 1, 1990.
On May 11, 2009, Judge Kent was sentenced to 33 months in prison for lying to investigators about sexually abusing two female employees. Dick DeGuerin, Kent's attorney, said the judge would retire from the bench because of a disability, rather than resign, thereby enabling Kent to keep receiving his $169,300 annual salary for life. That did not satisfy the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Representatives John Conyers Jr., (D-Mich.) and Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), who demanded that Kent resign immediately or face impeachment.
Judge Kent submitted his resignation on June 2, 2009, with the proviso that it would not take effect for a full year. This angered the membership of the House Judiciary Committee, which voted unanimously to send four Articles of Impeachment to the full House of Representatives on June 10, 2009. The articles were passed on June 19, 2009, making Judge Kent the first federal fudge to be impeached since Walter L. Nixon, Jr. in 1989. Kent thereafter submitted a new letter of resignation to the Senate on June 25, 2009, taking effect on June 30, 2009. On June 30, President Barack Obama accepted his resignation. On July 20, the House of Representatives passed a resolution asking the Senate to end former Judge Kent's trial. Two days later, the Senate agreed to the resolution.
Judge Kent is a graduate of University of Texas and The University of Texas School of Law. Before his appointment to the federal bench, he was in private practice with the firm Royston Rayzor in Galveston, Texas.
Writing style 
Judge Kent became well known throughout the legal community for his unique orders and judgments. Sometimes taking the form of humor, as in his orders in Bolivia v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc. and Smith v. Colonial Penn Life Insurance. and at other times serving as ridicule aimed at the attorneys appearing before him, as in Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp. and Labor Force, Inc. v. Jacintoport Corp. et al.
2001 case reassignment 
In 2001, the Chief Judge of the Southern District of Texas reassigned 85 cases away from Judge Kent that were being handled by Richard Melancon, an attorney who was considered a close friend of Kent.
2007 misconduct discipline 
In August 2007, Chief Judge Hayden Head of the Southern District of Texas issued an order indicating that Judge Kent would not be hearing cases between September 1, 2007 and January 1, 2008. During Judge Kent's four-month leave of absence, he continued to draw his annual salary. He did not perform judicial work, with his cases instead allocated to other judges. Judge Kent was transferred to the Houston division of the Southern District of Texas in January 2008.
Criminal charges 
On December 20, 2007, the 5th Circuit issued an order indicating that there was an ongoing Department of Justice criminal investigation into the allegations underlying a complaint to the Judicial Council regarding Judge Kent.
On August 28, 2008, Kent was indicted in federal court on three counts of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse, stemming from the same alleged conduct that was the basis for the 2007 misconduct complaint. He is the first federal judge to be charged with federal sex crimes. On January 6, 2009, the federal grand jury that indicted him in August added three additional counts, for aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact and obstruction of justice. On February 23, 2009, the day on which jury selection was to begin, Kent pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, and agreed to retire as judge, although it was unclear whether he would be permitted to retire rather than resign. Kent was sentenced on May 11, 2009.
Although Kent purported to "retire", the minimum age at which a federal judge may retire with a pension is generally age 65, a condition that Kent, at age 59, did not meet. An exception allowing for early retirement is if the judge seeking to retire certifies to the President that he is "permanently disabled from performing his duties," supplying a certification to that effect issued by the chief judge of the circuit. However, in May 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in an opinion written by Chief Judge Edith Jones, denied Kent's disability status and instead recommended his impeachment.
Kent continued to draw his salary until the effective date of his resignation on June 30, 2009. Had he not resigned, he would have been paid until convicted by the Senate in his impeachment trial. The requirement of Article III that federal judges "shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office" may preclude action against his salary barring impeachment. Despite Kent's retirement, had he been impeached and convicted, he would have lost his retirement benefits.
Kent pleaded guilty in February 2009 to obstruction of justice for lying to a judicial committee investigating an allegation he sexually harassed an employee. He also acknowledged that he had had non-consensual sexual contact with two female employees between 2003 and 2007. He was sentenced on May 11, 2009, to serve 33 months in federal prison on the charge of obstructing justice in the investigation of the sexual abuse accusations. The obstruction charge carried a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. As part of a plea agreement, Kent admitted that the sexual conduct was non-consensual. Kent must also pay a $1,000 fine and a total of $6,550 in restitution to the two victims. While in prison he will be required to take part in the Bureau of Prisons Alcohol Treatment Program. In pronouncing sentence over Kent, visiting Judge Roger Vinson stated, "Your wrongful conduct is a huge black X ... a stain on the judicial system itself, a matter of concern in the federal courts". On June 15, 2009, Kent reported to the Federal Medical Center, Devens in Devens, Massachusetts to begin his sentence. In November 2009, he was moved to a state prison in Florida. In July 2011, Kent was released on furlough to attend his daughter's wedding, after which he served out the remainder of his sentence confined to his home in West Texas.
Impeachment proceedings 
The start of proceedings 
On May 12, 2009, soon after Kent was sentenced to 33 months in prison, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. and James Sensenbrenner introduced separate resolutions (H.Res. 424 and H.Res. 431), which were referred the House Judiciary Committee which two days later voted to begin impeachment proceedings as a reaction to Kent's refusal to resign.
On May 27, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recommended that Kent be impeached and ordered that he not be given disability status. Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote that "a claimant should not profit from his own wrongdoing by engaging in criminal misconduct and then collecting a federal retirement salary for the disability related to the prosecution". Jones also noted that Kent did not appear to be disabled or impaired. The Fifth Circuit's Judicial Council urged the Judicial Conference of the United States to "take expeditious action" toward impeachment proceedings before Congress.
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First resignation and congressional hearings 
On June 2, 2009, Judge Kent submitted his resignation to President Obama in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid hearings in Congress.  The resignation, had it not been precluded by removal from office, would have been effective as of June 1, 2010.
On June 9, the Task Force unanimously voted to report four articles to the full House Judiciary Committee. The next day, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send them to the full House.
Impeachment, Senate trial, and second resignation 
The vote for impeachment in the House was scheduled to take place on June 18, but it was postponed until the next day due to prolonged debate over an appropriations bill. All four articles of impeachment were passed by the House of Representatives, three unanimously and one having only a single member, Mel Watt (D-NC), voting "present". After the articles were approved, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) were appointed as managers to conduct the trial in the Senate, with Schiff and Goodlatte being designated as lead managers.  The articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, where the proceedings were started on June 24. On that day, Senators passed two resolutions: one providing for a summons for Kent to answer the articles against him, and the other providing for a committee to analyze the evidence against him and report their findings to the full Senate. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) were designated as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the committee. On June 25, when Senate officials traveled to the prison facility where Kent was confined to serve him with the formal summons to the impeachment trial, he presented them with a new resignation letter, effective on June 30. The development was reported to the Senate, which directed that copies of Kent's letter be sent to President Obama and the House of Representatives. On June 30, President Obama accepted his resignation and on July 20, the House of Representatives passed a resolution asking the Senate to end the impeachment trial against Kent. The Senate agreed to the resolution on July 22.
- Flood, Mary; Lise Olsen (2009-02-24). "Kent plea avoids a trial Federal judge admits to 1 count of obstruction; 5 sexual charges will be dropped KENT: Sentencing in May". Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Suzanne Gamboa, House Approves Inquiry to Decide on Federal Judge's Impeachment, Associated Press, May 13, 2009. Retrieved on June 24, 2009
- "Panel votes to recommend Kent impeachment". Houston Chronicle. 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2009-06-10. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hRYAFQ65)
- Powell, Stewart (2009-06-19). "U.S. House impeaches Kent". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-19. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hfRJRw37)
- Miller, S.A. (2009-06-27). "Impeached judge Samuel B. Kent tenders his resignation". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2009-10-27. "The House last impeached a federal judge 20 years ago when Walter Nixon was ultimately removed as chief judge for the Southern District of Mississippi. He lied to a grand jury about helping get drug charges dropped against a business partner's son." (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5kqqRkUT0)
- "Statement From Senate Leaders On Judge Kent Resignation Letter" (Press release). Senate Democratic Caucus. 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2009-06-25. "After being served with a summons to file an answer to the articles of impeachment, Judge Kent signed a letter of resignation effective June 30th, 2009."
- Olsen, Lisa (2009-06-25). "Judge Kent resigns amid impeachment proceedings". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Gamboa, Suzanne (2009-06-30). "White House accepts convicted judge's resignation". AP. Retrieved 2009-07-22. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5iTDSpUiA)
- Paschenko, Chris (2009-07-22). "Congress wrapping up business on Kent". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2009-07-22. "On Tuesday, the House approved without objection a resolution to end impeachment proceedings against Kent, who was on the bench in Galveston for almost 20 years."
- Gamboa, Suzanne (2009-07-22). "Congress ends jailed judge's impeachment". AP. Retrieved 2009-07-22.[dead link] (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5iTE2kciQ)
- "Law's Hall of Shame - Justice Samuel B. Kent". Law Museum. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- e.g., "The Court seriously doubts whether Brazoria County has ever seen a live Bolivian . . . even on the Discovery Channel."; "[T]his humble Court by the sea is certainly flattered by what must be the worldwide renown of rural Texas courts for dispensing justice with unparalleled fairness and alacrity, apparently in common discussion even on the mountain peaks of Bolivia."; and "Plaintiff has an embassy in Washington D.C...., whereas there isn't even a Bolivian restaurant anywhere near here!" Republic of Bolivia v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc., et al., case no. G-99-110, S.D. Tex., Order of Transfer (March 1, 1999)
- "Defendant should be assured that it is not embarking on a three-week-long trip via covered wagons when it travels to Galveston. Rather, Defendant will be pleased to discover that the highway is paved and lighted all the way to Galveston, and thanks to the efforts of this Court's predecessor, Judge Roy Bean, the trip should be free of rustlers, hooligans, or vicious varmints of unsavory kind." Smith v. Colonial Penn Life Insurance, case no. G-96-503, S.D. Tex., Order Denying Motion to Transfer (Nov. 6, 1996)
- "Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact - complete with hats, handshakes, and cryptic words - to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed." Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp., case no. G-00-558 , S.D. Tex., Order Granting Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (June 27, 2001)
- "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.... Defendant's obnoxiously ancient, boilerplate, inane Motion is emphatically DENIED. Moreover, Defendant's present counsel-of-record, Mr. [redacted] is determined to be disqualified for cause from this action for submitting this asinine tripe." Labor Force, Inc. v. Jacintoport Corp. et al., case no. G-01-058 , S.D. Tex., Order Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Transfer Venue and Ordering Substitution of Counsel-Of-Record
- Galveston Daily News: Kent, his accuser in same building
- The Galveston County Daily News
- Olsen, Lise; Mary Flood and Roma Khanna (2008-08-29). "U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent indicted in sex case". Retrieved 2008-08-29.
- Lozano, Juan (2009-01-07). "Federal judge indicted on additional sex charges". Retrieved 2009-01-07.[dead link]
- U.S. District Court Judge Charged in Superseding Indictment with Aggravated Sexual Abuse and Abusive Sexual Contact, U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, January 6, 2009
- Casey, Rick (2009-02-25). "The Judge Sam soap opera continues". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- 28 U.S.C. § 371
- 28 U.S.C. § 372
- Tennissen, Marilyn (2009-08-28). "5th Circuit denies Kent's disability status, recommends impeachment". Southeastern Texas Record. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- [dead link]
- Staff reporter (2009-05-11). "Federal Judge Gets Prison Sentence". KRPC Houston. Retrieved 2009-06-15. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hYxdLzHM)
- Powell, Stewart M. (2009-06-15). "Kent starts his prison sentence". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-15. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hYwoxtwc)
- Paschenko, Chris (2009-11-07). "Former judge Kent moved to Florida prison". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
- Olsen, Lise (July 30, 2011). "Disgraced ex-judge Kent out of prison, confined to cabin". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
- Conyers, John, Jr. (2009-05-12). "H. Res. 424: Authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to inquire whether the House should impeach Samuel B. Kent, a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. (2009-05-12). "H. Res. 431: Impeaching Samuel B. Kent, judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, for high crimes and misdemeanors.". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Staff reporter (2009-05-27). "Fifth Circuit Takes Action Against Judge Kent". The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- Gamboa, Suzanne (2009-06-03). "House panel holds hearing on judge's crimes". AP. Retrieved 2009-06-15.[dead link] (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hYxxaPew)
- Lozano, Juan A. (2009-06-02). "Convicted federal judge submits resignation letter". AP. Retrieved 2009-06-15.[dead link] (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hYxEPxJX)
- "Victims allege years of sexual misconduct by federal judge". CNN. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2009-06-11. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hRh0CXUH)
- "Impeachment of judge goes to full committee". Houston Chronicle. 2009-06-09. Retrieved 2009-06-11. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5hRiYctKC)
- .Paschenko, Chris (2009-06-18). "House vote on Kent impeachment scheduled". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Paschenko, Chris (2009-06-19). "Spending bill pre-empts Kent impeachment". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 418". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
- Conyers, John, Jr. (2009-06-19). "H. Res. 565: Appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment of Samuel B. Kent, a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Staff reporter (2009-06-19). "House Impeaches U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent; Schiff and Goodlatte to serve as lead impeachment managers during Senate trial". Pasadena Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Paschenko, Chris (2009-06-25). "Senate accepts impeachment articles against Kent". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Reid, Harry (2009-06-24). "S. Res. 202: A resolution to provide for issuance of a summons and for related procedures concerning the articles of impeachment against Samuel B. Kent.". United States Senate. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Reid, Harry (2009-06-24). "S. Res. 203: A resolution to provide for the appointment of a committee to receive and to report evidence with respect to articles of impeachment against Judge Samuel B. Kent.". United States Senate. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- "Senate Leaders Announce Bipartisan Committee To Investigate Judge Samuel Kent" (Press release). Senate Democratic Caucus. 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Conyers, John, Jr. (2009-07-20). "H. Res. 661: Instructing the managers on the part of the House of Representatives in the impeachment proceeding now pending against Samuel B. Kent to advise the Senate that the House of Representatives does not desire further to urge the articles of impeachment against Samuel B. Kent.". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Samuel B. Kent at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Steven Lubet, Bullying From the Bench, The Green Bag, Autumn 2001.
- Kent's letter to the House Judiciary Committee's task force considering his impeachment, June 1, 2009
- U.S. House of Representatives Report no 111-159, Impeachment of Judge Samuel B. Kent, June 17, 2009. (In PDF format)
- 111th Cong. H. Res. 520, the U.S. House of Representatives resolution to impeach Kent, introduced June 9, 2009, reported to the House June 17, 2009.
- Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator, information for inmate no. 45225-079, accessed June 19, 2009
|Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
October 1, 1990 – June 30, 2009