Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Federal Judicial Whorehouse of Judges

More judges under investigation
Experts call 5 ongoing probes of federal jurists unprecedented
By LISE OLSEN
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Oct. 13, 2008, 12:02AM


U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent is the first federal judge to be indicted for alleged federal sex crimes, but he's only the latest in a string of jurists to face misconduct allegations in 2008, for behavior such as frequenting a topless club or lying under oath.

Nationwide, four other federal judges are being investigated for, among other things, taking cash from lawyers, using an escort service, posting nude photos on a personal Web site and abusing power in court.

The flurry of federal disciplinary activity appears unprecedented under the modern review system, established by Congress in 1980, according to experts and official court statistics.

``As far as I know, we've never had anything like this,'' said Arthur Hellman, a federal judicial disciplinary expert and professor at the University of Pittsburgh law school.

Kent, who sat on the Galveston bench for 17 years before being transferred to Houston last year, is the only federal judge to confront an ongoing public criminal investigation.

He's been indicted but pleaded not guilty to charges he improperly touched a female court employee and attempted to force her to perform oral sex.

He faces a trial on Jan. 26 before U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, who was specially assigned to oversee the case.

Four other federal judges in California, Colorado and Louisiana confront various stages of judicial disciplinary review - including U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. of New Orleans, who is being investigated for possible impeachment by the judiciary committee of the House.

After being granted immunity from prosecution as part of the judicial disciplinary process, Porteous admitted under oath that he filed a bankruptcy under a false name, illegally concealed assets and gambling debts, and accepted thousands of dollars in cash from lawyer friends, according to statements included in case documents released recently by the Fifth Circuit judicial council.

Normally secret

The council made public its normally secret investigative archive, which will be part of the congressional investigation. The Department of Justice's Public Integrity Division, which filed the misconduct complaint against Porteous, chose not to seek an indictment, records show.

He remains on the federal payroll but was recently reprimanded and suspended from hearing cases for two years by the Fifth Circuit judicial council.

Unless impeached, Porteous will continue to collect full pay as a judge, even though he has been stripped of his duties. Kent and a California judge, who both received formal written reprimands, also remain on the bench.

However, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the ranking minority member of the House judiciary committee, recently told the Houston Chronicle he believes that Kent's disciplinary matter should receive additional scrutiny immediately, given the indictment.

``Judges should be held to the highest standard, and the allegations against Mr. Kent are severe,'' Smith said in a statement to the Chronicle. ``No one is above law, most especially, judges. I urge the Judicial Conference to consider an immediate review of the claims made by the complainant and make an appropriate recommendation to Congress if necessary.''
Judges defend actions

Meanwhile, two others - judges in Colorado and the 9th Circuit in California - face judicial conduct inquiries for behavior that they have defended as part of their private lives.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Nottingham, of Denver, acknowledged he spent $3,000 in a two-night binge at a topless dance club and used a high-priced escort service. But he defended those actions, part of misconduct complaints, as ``private and personal matters involving human frailties and foibles.''

In California, Alex Kozinski, the 9th Circuit's chief judge, admitted in June that his personal Web site included off-color videos and photos, including one of two naked women depicted as cows revealing bare crotch close-ups. However, the judge also said he mistakenly believed that particular part of his site was not available to the public.
A rare situation

Normally, few complaints against U.S. judges have been considered serious enough to merit forming an investigating committee.

Only 18 of 1,484 complaints filed from September 2004 to September 2007 prompted formation of such judicial investigative committees, according to revised U.S. court statistics. Those committees, made up of judges from the same circuit, do their investigations in secret. Findings are reviewed by judicial councils, who can vote to do nothing, take action privately or, rarely, take public action. Even when discipline is public, allegations can be summarized with little detail.

When Kent, recently indicted for abusive sexual conduct and attempted aggravated sexual assault involving a female employee, was reprimanded last year, the 5th Circuit Judicial Council described the matter as ``sexual harassment.''

That reprimand was one of three public sanctions taken against federal judges in 2006 and 2007.

By comparison, from Sept. 30, 1999, to Sept. 30, 2005, judicial councils reported only four public disciplinary actions, according to official court statistics. A search of electronic public records and media archives reveals details on only one.

No matter how serious the allegations - or criminal charges - accused judges continue to receive full salaries, unless impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives and removed by the U.S. Senate. No federal judge has been impeached since 1989; only seven judges have been removed from office in U.S. history.

Kent continues to work in the federal courthouse, where the woman he is accused of abusing also works.

lise.olsen@chron.com

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FEDERAL JUDGES UNDER REVIEW

Public disciplinary action of federal judges is rare, and the investigations are secret. Still, five recent investigations have been made public in 2008:

• U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent , Houston

Pleaded not guilty to federal sex crimes charges; previously reprimanded for judicial misconduct in 2007. Nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

• U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. , New Orleans

Recommended to be considered for impeachment for allegations of perjury and of improperly accepting gifts and money. Recently reprimanded and suspended from the bench for two years. Nominated by President Clinton in 1994.

• Chief U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham , Denver

A judicial council continues to investigate misconduct allegations, including the judge's admitted use of a topless club and escort service. Nominated by Bush in 1989.

• U.S. District Judge Manuel Real , Los Angeles

Reprimanded for improperly communicating with a litigant; remains under review for complaints about an apparent "pattern and practice" of failing to provide reasons for legal decisions. Nominated by President Johnson in 1966.

• Chief Judge Alex Kozinski , 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California. Requested an investigation by another circuit after admitting in June that his personal Web site contained graphic sexual photos and videos. Nominated by President Reagan in 1985.

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My problems with the legal system and my thoughts found:

[here 1] This post is about Gay Marriage fought for in Connecticut courts, scroll down for links I am talking about.

and

[here 2] This post is mainly about Connecticut Police and Connecticut State Trooper misconduct, brutality, rape, and abuse of the public. It is taxpayer fraud if they refuse to serve the public that pays them with tax dollars.

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