Saturday, September 29, 2007
Yesterday's Texas Lawyer reports:
The Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today issued an order reprimanding and admonishing U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston. The order relates to a complaint of judicial misconduct lodged against the judge on May 21 alleging sexual harassment toward an employee of the federal judicial system. A former case manager for Kent, Cathy McBroom, confirms she filed a complaint against the judge. She declines further comment. McBroom currently works in the clerk's office in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.
Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones, who signed the order, wrote that a Special Investigatory Committee appointed to investigate the complaint expanded the original complaint under Rule 9(A) of the Rules Governing Complaints of Judicial Misconduct or Disability, and investigated other “instances of alleged inappropriate behavior toward other employees of the federal judicial system.” The committee recommended a reprimand “along with the accomplishment of other remedial courses of action,” and by a majority vote the judicial council accepted the recommendations. The council concluded the proceedings “because appropriate remedial action had been and will be taken, including but not limited to the Judge's four-month leave of absence from the bench, reallocation of the Galveston/Houston docket and other measures.”
The Fifth Circuit's reprimand order, however, provided that the special investigatory committee's Report, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendations, and the Response to the Report "are confidential and will not be disclosed."
That is most unfortunate. If Judge Kent engaged in sexual harassment, the public has the right to know that, and to know whether he has been held to the same Title VII standard that he is charged with applying to litigants appearing in his court. If Judge Kent acted offensively but in a way that did not run afoul of Title VII (he has long had the reputation of, to put it mildly, not suffering fools gladly), the attorneys practicing in his courtroom should know that as well. The public and practicing attorneys alike have every right to know whether federal judges are being held to the same standards as the rest of us.