First, the backstory. Judge Kent's going to jail for 33 months for sexual assault.
Galveston Federal District Judge Samuel Kent becomes the first federal judge in US History to be formally accused of sex crimes, and he ends up taking a plea on obstruction of justice charges on the eve of trial last February.
Sentencing was this month, and Kent got 33 months in prison for his sexual assaults on two former courthouse employees, and he must turn himself in to the authorities on or before June 15th.
That was bad enough. Then came his claims of disability.
After first denying any wrongdoing, and looking forward to his day in court, only to cop a plea, Judge Kent (through his attorney, Dick DeGuerin) next argued that he suffers from a mental health disability that justified his continued receipt of his judicial salary (as well as other benefits) -- a monthly amount I've seen ranging between $160,000 and $180,000 in various newstories. (I haven't taken the time to go research this myself, but his salary and benefits are public record.)
(Why this disability argument? Because Judge Kent isn't even 60 yet, and he's too young under the law to flat out retire and get benefits. If he doesn't qualify for a disability, he gets squat.)
Back at the ranch .... The first argument that I heard was that the disability had something to do with anxiety or depression. I wondered about that, thinking that most anyone in Judge Kent's position would be anxious and depressed ... but did this count as sufficient disability to merit the benefits?
Guess others were wondering this, too, because I then heard about a second argument. Judge Kent suffered from bipolar disorder, and this would be the basis of his request for disability benefits.
Well, now. That's interesting. It was also interesting to me how there was not any discussion of any bipolar disorder during the coverage regarding the sexually sordid allegations and subsequent charges against Judge Kent prior to the taking of the plea.
An Undiagnosed Bipolar Federal Judge on the Bench? What are the ramifications?
And, what would be the impact of a federal judge rendering substantive decisions from the bench, while suffering from an untreated bipolar condition? Wow. I could almost hear the wheels of appellate attorneys spinning ....
Fifth Circuit's Chief Justice Edith Jones Makes the Call
Well, now there seems to be an end to this road. The road has been cleared for Judge Kent's impeachment and the Fifth Circuit has shut the door on this disability business.
The answer is no. No disability benefits for Judge Samuel Kent.
Here's Chief Justice Edith Jones' letter to Defense Counsel Dick DeGuerin, where the disability benefits are formally denied.
Here's the Judicial Council for the Fifth Circuit's actual decision regarding the impeachment, signed by Chief Justice Edith Jones, if you would like to read it.
For more details, read the National Law Journal coverage of today's events by Tony Mauro.