The House of Representatives unanimously approved four articles of impeachment today against Judge Samuel Kent, who is serving time in a federal medical facility after pleading guilty in February to obstructing an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
House members said that Kent forced them to vote by his refusal to resign immediately.
“This is the first time a federal judge has been convicted of a felony, has reported to prison, and has still not resigned from his office. This shows how deep Judge Kent’s audacity truly runs,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the top Republican on a bipartisan task force that recommended Kent’s impeachment.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the task force, said there would have been “a stain on the Congress” if it had not acted.
Kent’s case will now head to the Senate, which is expected to hold a trial and vote on removing him unless he first resigns. The action today marks the first impeachment of a federal judge since 1989, when the House leveled accusations against then-Judge Walter Nixon. The Senate later removed Nixon.
President George H.W. Bush appointed Kent to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He pleaded guilty in February to obstruction of justice, just before a trial was to begin on charges that he sexually abused two court employees. He offered to resign effective June 2010, citing his desire to continue receiving medical benefits and pay, but lawmakers said that wasn’t enough.
Kent was sentenced to 33 months in prison. He is currently at a federal medical facility in Massachusetts operated by the Bureau of Prisons.
Two of the four articles of impeachment relate to the accusations brought by the two court employees. The third accuses him of lying to an investigative committee of the 5th Circuit. The fourth accuses him of lying to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.
The impeachment task force is considering action against a second federal judge, G. Thomas Porteous of New Orleans. His case is more of a challenge for the House because, unlike Kent, Porteous has not been convicted of a crime. The Justice Department says there is evidence that Porteous accepted bribes from lawyers and committed perjury during his personal bankruptcy.