As much as I am loath to focus even more attention on a man who has already been publicly shamed, broken and will soon begin serving time in federal prison, Judge Samuel Kent is just too colorful and controversial of a figure to avoid commenting on.
In addition to his 33-month sentence for obstruction of justice during an investigation into allegations of sexual assault (which he later admitted to), it looks like the process of stripping Kent of his judicial robes has shifted into high gear in Congress. After a 20 minute hearing, the House subcommittee on judicial
impeachment unanimously voted to recommend articles of impeachment to
the House Judiciary Committee. The Committee has opted for a fast-track impeachment, and will hold a vote on the issue tomorrow.
Since it seems likely that the Committee will issue the articles of
impeachment to the full House, the next step of the process will
involve a vote on the matter by the entire House. Assuming that the
House impeaches Kent, the next stop is a trial before the Senate. It's likely that Congress will take extreme measures to expedite the impeachment at every stage of the process.
The cause of all the rush is indignation over Judge Kent's attempt to continue drawing his federal salary
while he serves a portion of his sentence. The judge announced that he
would resign effective in June 2010, which would allow him to keep
getting paid for a year while in prison.
Kent's strategy hinged on the fact that impeachments usually take a
long time. Because impeachments have to go through all the stages
outlined above, Kent thought that he could convince Congress to forgo a
full impeachment and allow him to keep his salary for a year by
agreeing to resign. Under Kent's plan, Congress wouldn't have to spend
the time and money to impeach him, he would get a year of paid vacation
(albeit in prison) and would eventually leave the bench anyway.
The plan backfired when members of the House committee became enraged over Kent's machinations.
"Judge Kent and his lawyer are banking on the fact that impeachments
take time, literally," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) after a hearing last week. "Judge Kent
receives $465 of his taxpayer-funded salary every day he remains in
office. We are here today to put an end to Judge Kent's abuse of
authority and exploitation of American taxpayers."
Kent had originally tried to claim a disability, which would have allowed him to continue receiving his salary for life. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied his claim and recommended his impeachment.