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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 19, 2009 1:30pm-2:00pm EDT

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the speaker pro tempore: 395 members have recorded their presence, a quorum is present. the gentleman from michigan is recognized for one hour. mr. mr. conyers: i ask unanimous consent that all members have five legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and exclude extraneous material on the resolution under consideration and i begin by yielding myself 30 minutes
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the speaker pro tempore: without objection. mr. conyers: and i yield to the distinguished ranking member of the committee, lamar smith of texas, and ask by unanimous consent he be allowed to control the time on his side for purposes of debate. the speaker pro tempore: without objection. mr. conyers: i yield myself as much time as i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for as much time as he may consume. mr. conyers: we're here today to perform one of the most solemn duties under the constitution, which is to consider the impeachment of a sitting member of the judiciary, a federal judge, who but for the congressional power of impeachment holds a life tenure on his office. the judge in question, samuel
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b. kent of the united states district court for the southern district of texas has already pled guilty to obstruction of justice and has entered in and is residing in a federal prison at this moment. the judiciary committee's independent investigation conducted admirably by a special task force established for that purpose and led by the gentleman from california, mr. schiff, has concluded that the charge underlying that guilty plea is overwhelmingly borne out by the evidence. as are the related charges of repeated sexual assault against various court employees under his supervision. judge kent's conduct is
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described in greater detail and the -- in the report filed by our committee which voted unanimously 29-0 to recommend four articles of impeachment to the house. the court documents and other materials are available on the committee's website. of the three branches of government devised by the framers of oour constitution, only the judicial branch is insulated from the accountability of standing for election. this is by design. the other two branches, the legislative, the executive are designed to be democratically responsible to the people. but the judicial branch is designed to be independent, to interpret the laws passed by the congress without favor and without fear of political
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reprisal. so article 3, section 1, provides that federal judges hold their offices during good behavior, quote-unquote, and when a judge abuses his power, when by his conduct he proves himself unfit to hold his office, he cannot be turned out by the voters. instead, it falls to the congress to ensure that the public trust of that office is protected through the power of impeachment. congress has used this power sparingly. in our nation's history, only 13 federal judges have been impeached. and even fewer convicted.
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needless to say, the conduct at issue here is both shocking and shameful. in due course, many of the disturbing details of judge kent's appalling conduct will more than likely be revealed. but now, i want to emphasize for the members the following points. the committee is recommended -- the committee is recommending impeachment not merely on the fact that the judge has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to prison. rather, it is his conduct. making false statements to his fellow judges in an official -- to fellow judges in an official inquiry and sexually assaulting
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courthouse personnel that the committee has independently determined to constitute high crimes and misdemeanors warranting his impeachment and removal from office. the judiciary committee determined overwhelmingly, unanimously, after most careful examination, that the judge's conduct plainly renders him unfit to remain a federal judge. entrusted to use the power of his office to dispatch justice impartially, this judge abused his power blatantly with partiality and favor for his own personal gain. entrusted to render justice, he had instead sought to evade it.
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only congress can remove judge kent from office. until we do so, he will continue to draw a salary as a sitting federal judge, even from his prison cell. while the executive can prosecute him and the judiciary can impose punishment for his criminal conviction, only the congress of the united states has the power to remove him from office. and that is our constitutional duty here today. i bring this resolution to the floor with heavy regret that we are even called upon to take such action. let it be clear, i have no doubt that this member of the judiciary must be removed from office -- from the office that
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he has so blatantly abused. the evidence is overwhelming. the grounds for impeachment perfectly clear. i therefore urge my colleagues to support this resolution and mr. speaker, i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from michigan reserves the balance of his time the gentleman from texas is recognized. mr. smith: i yield myself such time as i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. smith: mr. speaker, we are here today to consider and vote on articles of impeachment following u.s. district judge's jam -- samuel kent's guilty plea and sentencing. judge kent pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and lying to a panel of judges that who were investigationing allegation he is sexually assaulted two women on his
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staff. following his guilty plea and sentencing herb house authorized an inquiry into whether the house should impeach judge kent. recently, the committee heard testimonfrom two women who judge kent assaulted. their testimony was troubling, especially since he used his position to get away with it. he has refused to appear before the committee. he sent a letter to president obama tendering his resignation , effective june 1, 2010. by resigning june 1, 2010, he's attempting to receive his
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judicial salary for another year. that's why we are here today, to take the next step to putting an end to judge kent's abusive authority and exploitation of the american taxpayers. the judiciary committee approved four articles of impeachment against judge kent. two parols -- two articles relate to his sexual misconduct and two to his lying about his conduct. i am not unsympathetic to the claims he endured difficult personal tragedies and might suffer mental illness. however he does not have the right to continue to serve as a federal judge and collect a taxpayer-funded salary while sitting in prison for federal obstruction of justice. judge kent has remained on the bench long after he sexually assaulted two women and lied to law enforcement officials. it is now time for justice, justice for the american people, who have been exploited
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by a judge who ignored his oath of office. though his attorney claims that congress has, quote, better things to do, end quote, ensuring that a federal judge convicted of a felony does not receive a taxpayer-funded salary while sitting in jail is important to our system of justice and the priority of this congress. every day that judge kent remains on the bench is one day too long. i urge my colleagues to vote in favor of these articles of impeachment to restore integrity to the federal bench. i hope the senate will act quickly to ensure swift justice for judge kent, his victims, and the american people. i'll reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from michigan. mr. conyers: mr. speaker, i am pleased now to recognize one of our most distinguished members of the judiciary committee who
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headed the task force for impeachment in our committee, adam schiff, he has perform -- adam schiff -- he's performed remarkably well in a bipartisan committee and his former experience as an assistant u.s. attorney held him in very good stead. i recognize the distinguished gentleman from california for 10 minutes. . mr. schiff: i thank the gentleman and appreciate the great leadership of the chairman of the judiciary committee. today we find ourselves in a regrettable circumstance where we must act to remove a federal judge from the bench. the task before us is not one we welcome, but it is an important responsibility that has been entrusted to us by the founders and one which we must not shrink
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from. we have been fortunate to have a distinguished judiciary that served as an essential and co-equal branch of our government. we owe a great deal to the positive, thoughtful and vital role played by the nation's judges. to insulate members of the bench and ensure that judges are free to determine the justice of the cases before them on the basis of the law alone and no outside influence, federal judges are appointed for life. unlike elected officials who may be removed periodically by the voters or serve a term that comes to an end. the founding fathers provided only one extraordinary method of removing a federal judge, that of impeachment. the president cannot remove a judge he has appointed and the courts cannot. conviction of a federal or state offense is powerful to remove a judge from office. only the congress may remove a judge and only then by impeachment of the house and conviction in the senate for treason, bribery or other high
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crimes and misdemeanors justifying their removal. because we have been blessed by an extraordinary judiciary and because the bar for removal is high, the extraordinary remedy of impeachment of a federal judge has been used only 13 times in the nation's history, but the matter before us today warrants its use once again. last month, the house judiciary task force on judicial impeachment was directed to inquire whether judge kent should be impeached. as the chairman, i would like to report on our work and provide the members of the house of the facts. as the task force we were served by the capable ranking member by virginia, bob goodlatte and worked to proceed in a fair, open and deliberate matter and done so in a bipartisan, really nonpartisan basis. samuel kent was appointed in 1990 and served in the galveston courthouse in the southern district of texas. he was the sole judicial officer
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in the courthouse and imposing figure who exercised a substantial degree of influence and control both inside and outside of the courtroom. at some point in 2001, judge began sexually assaulting two women employees who served in the courthouse. these assaults occurred through may of 2007, when one of the victims filed a judicial misconduct complaint with the fivert circuit court of appeals. in response the judicial council of that circuit appointed a special investigative committee to investigate the complaint. onune 8, 2007, judge kent, pursuant to his own request was interviewed by the special investigative committee of that circuit. they sought to learn from judge kent whether he engaged in unwanted sexual contact. judge kent made material and false states about the extent of his contact with ms. mcbroom. he also told the investigative
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committee that once he was informed -- he was questioned about another female employee in the courthouse, his secretary, donna wilkerson and told the investigative committee that once ms. wilkerson informed him his advances were unwelcomed, no further sexual contact occurred when in fact he continued his sexual contacts with ms. mcbroom and ms. wilkerson. the department of justice commenced a criminal investigation relating to the judge's conduct as well. in november, 2007, judge kent was asked and granted an interview with the f.b.i. during an interview he requested, he was asked about his alleged conduct and false statements he had made to the fifth circuit. in august, 2008, he asked for a meeting at the department of justice and he sat down with his attorney and f.b.i. agent and representatives of the department of justice. and again, judge kent made
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material and false statements about the nature and extent of his nonconsensual sexual contact with ms. mcbroom and ms. wilkerson. worried about losing her job, ms. wilkerson was not initially candid when questioned about judge kent's conduct towards her. it was not only her third grand jury appearance that she was willing to reveal the sexual assaults she endured. on august 28, the federal grand jury returned a multicount indictment against judge kent. and on january 6, a grand jury issued a superseding indictment against judge kent alleging counts of sexual abuse as well as obstruction of justice and abuse of sexual contact. on february 23, the day his criminal trial was set to begin, judge kent pled guilty to obstruction of justice. pursuant to the plea agreement,
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he knowingly and admitted to having sexual contact with both women and obstructing justice in his testimony before the investigative committee. on may 11, judge kent was sent todd 33 months in prison and ordered to pay fines and restitution. judge kent began his term of incarceration on june 15, this past monday. the day after sentencing, the house of representatives directed the judiciary committee investigative task force to inquire whether judge kent should be impeached and the committee received testimony from ms. mcbroom, ms. wilkerson and a judicial impeachment scholar. the professor provided expert testimony that concluded that making false statements as well as abusing his power as a federal judge to sexually assault women were independent gounds that would warrant judge kent's impeachment and removing from office. the task force invited judge
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kent to testify, but he declined. we received correspondence that was made available to all members. the task force invited judge kent's counsel to present arguments on behalf of his client and provide the opportunity to question any of the witnesses and judge kent counsel declined to appear or participate. subsequently, judge kent counsel sent a letter questioning the veracity of the women and making the admission that their testimony was unnecessary because judge kent guilty plea to the felony obstruction presents sufficient grounds for impeachment. the task force received a letter from judge kent to the white house dated june 2, stating his intention to resign june 1, a year from now. this doesn't affect his current status as a federal judge and whether impeachment is
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warranted. our proceeding does not constitute a trial. as the constitutional power to try impeachment resides in the senate. the house has rose to inquire whether the judge's conduct provides a sufficient basis for impeachment. according to leading commem tateors and precedent, there are two broad categories of conduct that justify impeachment, serious abuse of power and conduct that demonstrates that an official is unworthy to fill the office that he or she holds. earlier this month, the judicial conference of the united states transmitted the certificates of the house certifying its determination that consideration of impeachment of judge kent may be warranted. after concluding that the full record establishes that judge kent should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, the judiciary task force voted unanimously in recommending four articles of impeachment. on june 10, the house judiciary committee ordered h. res. 520 favorably reported by roll call
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of 29-0. judge kent, incident to his position as a u.s. district judge, engaged in deplorable conduct with respect to employees. such conduct is incompatible with the trust and confidences placed in him as a judge. judge kent sexually assaulted two employees of the court. he corruptly obstructed, influenceed an official proceeding by making false statements to the fifth circuit and making false and material statements to the agents of f.b.i. and department of justice. these acts of sexual assault and obstruction of justicer as the judge who sentenced judge kent stated, a stain on the justice itself. with the house of representatives to sit by and let the judge sit in prison while holding the office, it would be a stain on the congress
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as well. judge kent conduct was a disgrace to the bench, that he would still cling to the bench from the confines of his prison cell and asked the public whose trust he has already betrayed to continue paying his salary demonstrate how little regard he has for the institution he was supposed to serve. i urge the house to approve each of the four articles of impeachment set out in house resolution 520. and i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from california yields back. the gentleman from michigan reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from texas is recognized. smith smith i yield five minutes to the the gentleman from virginia, mr. goodlatte, who is a rim of the impeachment task force. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from virginia is recognized for five minutes. mr. goodlatte: i thank the gentleman for yielding. mr. speaker, it's a rare occasion when the house of representatives must vote on articles of impeachment against a federal judge. indeed, the last time this occurred was 20 years ago. however, when evidence emerges that an individual is abusing
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his judicial office for his own advantage, the integrity of the judicial system becomes compromised and the house of representatives has the duty to investigate the matter and take the appropriate actions to end the abuse and restore confidence in the judicial system. it is also rare for the members of the house judiciary committee to agree on anything. however, the committee voted unanimously last week to report out house resolution 520, which contains the four articles of impeachment against judge kent. this vote came after a thorough investigation and much work by the task force on judicial impeachment. specifically, the task force conducted an investigation of judge kent's conduct, which included working with the f.b.i., the department of justice and the fifth judicial circuit. the task force conducted a hearing on the matter, at which two court employees testified about the extent of their sexual
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abuse. at the same hearing, we heard from a constitutional scholar who testified that judge kent's misconduct rises to the level of impeachable offenses. judge kent was invited to testify and his attorney was also invited to testify and participate in the hearing. both declined to attend. as you have already heard in statements today and as you have already seen in the jish -- judiciary committee report, it merits the serious step of issuing articles of impeachment. the evidence shows he lied to the f.b.i. and department of justice about the nature of his sexual conduct with court employees. in addition, he pled guilty to felony obstruction of justice and repeating acts of sexual contact with court employees. he was sentenced to 33 months in prison for committing felony obstruction of justice and this past monday he reported to prison and began his prison
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term. however, because the constitution provides that federal judges are appointed for life, samuel kent, despite the fact he is sitting in prison, collects to collect his taxpayer-funded salary of $174,000 per year, continues to collect his taxpayer-health benefits and continues to accrues his taxpayer-funded pension. this is the first time that a federal judge has pled guilty to a felony and reported to prison and still not resigned from his office. this shows how deep judge kent's audacity clearly runs. he sent a letter to the president explaining that he intends to resign one year from now. however, this purported resignation is not worth the paper it is written on, because nothing would prevent the judge from withdrawing his term before the end of the year. it is an attempt to extort
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hundreds of thousands of dollars from the american people. it is not a pleasant task to impeach a federal judge. yet when a judge so clearly abuses his office, it becomes necessary to take the appropriate action in order to restore the confidence of the american people in their judicial system. the constitution gives the house of representatives the power and responsibility to impeach federal judges. it is my strong recommendation that the members of the house adopt these articles of impeachment against judge kent. it is my hope that the united states senate will then act to swiftly bring this matter to trial and quick disposition. i would also ask -- also like to take this opportunity to thank adam schiff, the chairman of the task force on judicial impeachment for his leadership in this effort, along with all of the members of the task force on both sides of the aisle. as ranking member of the task force, i appreciate the fact that this effort has been undertaken in an extremely undertaken in an extremely nonpartisan fashion.


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