- From Joel Jacobson at Judging Crimes, "Fifth Circuit Sleaze"
- From the Houston Chronicle: "More judges under investigation"
- From the Tex Parte Blog, "Loosening the gag just a little"
If Kent committed the alleged acts then he deserves prosecution, without question. But he should have been removed as a judge long before now. Even so, Judge Kent is still sitting on the federal bench today post-indictment, eligible to hear cases. Kent's actions were even more egregious, arguably, than former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Verla Sue Holland, who slept with the District Attorney while he tried cases before her as a district judge, then concealed her adulterous misconduct in a death penalty appeal.
Welcome to the whacky world of the Fifth Circuit, which chief Appeals Court Judge Edith Jones rules in a style reminiscent of the Queen of Hearts.
Jones is not one of the sisterhood and is, indeed, famous for her hostility to female plaintiffs alleging sexual misconduct in the workplace. So it was fortunate for Kent that Jones was in charge when the Judicial Council considered complaints against him from Cathy McBroom, his former case manager at the Galveston courthouse.
The council did not reveal what those complaints were, but gave Kent a public reprimand for "sexual harassment" and suspended him for four months. The implication seemed to be that his offenses were relatively trivial.
McBroom did not think so, and went public with the complaint she had filed against Kent.
She said his unwelcome intentions spanned a four-year period and that he had used force in attempting to make her perform oral sex.
Her attorney asked the Judicial Council to give him a longer suspension and call for his impeachment, but no dice, and Kent returned to the bench. But by then the feds had launched an investigation, which culminated last month with his indictment on two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of aggravated sexual abuse.
Allegations of financial improprieties against Kent remain under investigation, according to press reports.
Kent's attorney has claimed that any sexual contact was "enthusiastically consensual."
Whether you believe him, or the grand jury, the Judicial Council's decision makes no sense. Nobody ever accused him of mere harassment.
Indeed, those two cases have more in common than just a sexual component. Like the impotent Texas Judicial Conduct Commission, which is supposed to provide oversight for Texas state jurists but in practice does nothing of the sort, mechanisms for holding the federal judiciary accountable appear broken in the 5th Circuit, with the Judicial Council in Kent's case more concerned about protecting their judicial peers than the public. That's a recurring theme when you examine various judicial misconduct cases - it's not just individual judges' bad behavior that's the problem, but also the tendency of their peers to knowingly tolerate it.