Original article no longer available
KHOU – 11
10:49 PM CST on Monday, February 23, 2009
By Courtney Zubowski / 11 News
HOUSTON, Texas — In court Monday, Judge Samuel Kent’s attorney said Kent was taking medication for anxiety and depression and was under the care of both a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
Now some attorneys are wondering if a medical condition may have affected decisions the federal judge made in court.
“It raises lots of issues,” said Defense Attorney Robert Fickman.
Fickman is a past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyer’s Association.
“I think any lawyer who has had a case in there in the last several years has a duty to make inquiry about whether or not the judge was suffering from some illness, mental illness, during the time he ruled on the case,” Fickman said.
Kent’s defense attorney, who is under a gag order, wouldn’t elaborate on the judge’s condition.
“It’s either going to be nothing or quite significant,” Fickman speculated.
Kent pleaded guilty Monday to lying to investigators about sexually abusing his secretary in exchange for prosecutors dropping five sex-crime charges against him.
Kent also retired Monday, effective immediately, possibly avoiding impeachment by Congress.
Since allegations surfaced of Kent sexually harrassing a second woman, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal removed most cases from the judge’s court.
“I think the small sliver of cases that were in Judge Kent’s judgement could have been impaired may be worth looking at,” said 11 News legal expert Gerald Treece. “But the large bulk amount of his work, the great amount of his work was well reviewed by the 5th Circuit, looked at by lawyers and praised by lawyers on both sides.”
Treece said it might be worth looking back at specific kinds of cases that passed through Judge Kent’s court.
“I would be most suspicious in a sexual harassment case, in a previous sexual harassment case,” Treece said. “Maybe he just tended to not believe a female’s story.”
But Treece said it’s easier said than done. He doesn’t believe Judge Kent’s state of mind will be as big of an issue — when it comes to past cases — as he believes defense attorneys would like it to be.