NOW reported that in late September the Judicial Council of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals formally reprimanded U.S. District Court Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston, Texas. They reassigned many of his pending cases to a other judges and suspended him for four months. NOW indicated that this is an “unprecedented action” and occured after a secret investigation of “allegations that the judge had sexually harassed and inappropriately touched a female employee. During their investigation, the committee expanded the inquiry to include additional complaints against Judge Kent.”

“There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to this process. The Fifth Circuit’s investigation of its own judge was completely secret, none of the findings were revealed to the public, not even after the investigation was complete, the public ‘reprimand’ contained no details, and all documents uncovered in the investigation are sealed,” said NOW President Kim Gandy, an attorney admitted to practice in the Fifth Circuit. “To make matters worse, the Fifth Circuit says that even if a judicial panel finds that a judge did commit a crime, it is not obligated to refer it to law enforcement. Federal judges are protected by law from the law.”
“This judicial panel seems to be protecting its own. The reported punishment — a four-month paid vacation and a slap on the wrist — seems extraordinarily light, and doesn’t seem to ‘fit the crime’ as it has been reported in the press. His punishment, for all practical purposes, has been a taxpayer-paid four month vacation and a reduced workload at full pay. When he returns to the bench in a few months, he will resume his normal duties, including ruling on cases involving sex discrimination and sexual harassment. If that happens, and he is indeed a sexual harasser, it would be an injustice to every woman whose case could come before his court,” said Gandy.

Based on the seriousness of the allegations and the actions of the Judicial Council, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has requested that the House Judiciary Committee open an investigation into the accusations against Judge Kent. If they find that Judge Kent violated federal law, including federal civil rights law, NOW will urge the committee to begin impeachment proceeding.