Judge Kent was recently indicted for two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse. He will remain on the bench, hearing cases while the criminal case against him proceeds. Judge Kent had previously been reprimanded by the Fifth Circuit over the harassment allegations.
Following a Department of Justice investigation, a federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Kent on two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse. His attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has said Kent is innocent.Judge Kent should receive the full presumption of innocence on these charges. Should he be convicted, he will no doubt finally face impeachment proceedings. These charges are alleged to have part of a pattern of harassment and bad behavior alleged by other judicial employees, allegations that included being drunk on the job.
The indictment came after a Justice Department investigation of Kent that began in November.
The investigation was prompted after Kent's former case manager, Cathy McBroom, accused the judge of repeatedly harassing her over a four-year period. McBroom has said the harassment culminated in a March 2007 incident in Kent's Galveston court chambers, where the judge allegedly pulled up her blouse and bra and tried to escalate contact before being interrupted.
But even before the recent indictments, Judge Kent has shown that he should not remain on the federal bench. Impeachment and removal proceedings should have been started long ago. A list of the news articles and call for impeachment and removal are found here.
From KRIS-TV in Corpus Cristi:
Investigators are also looking at gifts Kent might have received while on the bench.Investigators are looking into who paid for a 2001 trip to London.
Kent's disclosure forms for 2001-2006 show he reported receiving no gifts since 2002.
But in interviews with the Chronicle, former court employees and attorneys say that Kent continued to receive expensive lunches and drinks from other lawyer friends.
In 2001, an insurance company reimbursed Kent an unspecified amount for "round trip transportation only" to appear at a London conference.
The same year, Richard Melancon, an attorney friend who had dozens of cases in Kent's court, gave the judge a catered wedding reception valued at $1,000. A few months after the party, Kent's supervising federal judges abruptly reassigned Melancon's cases to another court.
Judge Kent should have faced impeachment over the 2001 reassignment of 85 cases away from Judge Kent, because the cases were all being handled by Kent's best man at his wedding Richard Melancon, a frequent companion of the judge, and there were allegations that Kent was engaging in favoritism on his friend's behalf.
Newly questioned during the grand jury’s investigation is the sale of Kent’s Galveston home at 5209 Denver Drive. Kent sold the home in 2006 to Corpus Christi orthodontist Janet Vaughan, county records show. Vaughan is the mother of attorney Kurt Arnold, who had frequent cases in Kent’s court. Vaughan paid $339,500 for the house, which the Galveston County Appraisal District valued at $185,680 in 2006.
More allegations of Judge Kent favoring his friends, including his friend, attorney Tony Buzbee. Buzbee was a former law clerk of Judge Kent.
In a 2002 decision, a Fifth Circuit panel removed Judge Kent from a case because he had demonstrated open bias against and "hostility" towards one of the parties. Although it is not terribly unusual for litigants to assert that a judge is biased against them, it is relatively rare for appellate courts to accept such claims and remove the judge from the case.
The hearing concluded at 12:05 p.m. Shortly thereafter, the two got in Buzbee’s Aston Martin sports car and went to lunch, according to a witness who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
In the ruling, Kent ordered BP CEO Lord John Browne to submit to sworn questioning about the explosion. Twelve days later, BP settled all of the injury cases, a move that is conservatively estimated to have been worth millions to Buzbee personally.
Some in the Galveston legal community have questioned Kent’s social relationships with some of the lawyers who frequently practiced in his court. “A handful of lawyers was perceived to have special favor with Kent,” Galveston attorney Mark Stevens wrote in a guest column last year. “Those lawyers were known as gatekeepers by some ‘unfavored’ lawyers who were often treated like dirt, or worse, by Kent.”
And to be treated like dirt by Judge Kent is to be treated very badly indeed. Judge Kent is a tyrant in the courtroom, and relishes issuing opinions offering abusive opinions of the lawyers in his court.
His most notorious abusive screed was examined by The Green Bag in an article entitled Bullying from the Bench. As reported in The Daily News of Galveston County:
Law professor Steven Lubet compared Judge Kent to "a schoolyard bully who taunts lawyers, who are in no position to respond in kind". He did a computer search revealing numerous examples of Judge Kent referring to something as "asinine," "ludicrous," "ridiculous," and the like- in his time on post. According to Lubet, "In just 11 years, he used the word "asinine" 13 times; all US courts of appeal combined had used this word as a descriptor only 16 times since 1944."
The judge is widely known for written opinions that mock lawyers for inept pleadings. In one, Kent said the lawyers wrote them “in crayon.”
People might find the opinions amusing, but they really amount to an improper attack on the professional reputations of lawyers who are powerless to retaliate, wrote Steven Lubet in a 2001 article about Kent, “Bullying from the Bench.”
Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University, cowrote “Judicial Conduct and Ethics” with Alfini. Because Kent’s mocking opinions broke no new legal ground, they never should have been issued in the first place, Lubet wrote. And in their mocking descriptions of attorneys, they violate an ethical rule requiring judges to behave in a way that protects public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary, Lubet wrote.
Judge Kent should not remain on the bench. It is time for Congress to act.