criminal prosecution of U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of the Southern District of Texas to an out-of-circuit judge to oversee.The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wasted little time tossing the
Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida, in Pensacola, was assigned the job in an order signed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Aug. 29, one day after Kent's Aug. 28 indictment. It was based on certification by the 5th Circuit of the need to assign the case outside the Circuit.
The order was not made public until Sept. 5, when Kent's colleague, Chief Judge Hayden Head of Houston, signed the order appointing Vinson.
Kent, 59, faces three criminal charges, including attempted aggravated sexual abuse and two counts of abusive sexual touching of his former case manager, Cathy McBroom, in March 2007. He is the first federal judge ever indicted for alleged sex crimes. The charges carry a potential life prison term.
The ink was barely dry when Vinson issued his first order. He gagged everyone in the case from talking about it to the news media. His sweeping order states that the defendant, the alleged victim and the prosecuting attorneys "have so far demonstrated a willingness to 'try this case in the press' and manipulate media coverage to gain favorable attention."
He said the intense scrutiny of the case has the potential to taint the Houston jury pool so, to "preserve a fair trial," he forbade anyone connected with the case from public comment about it.
Vinson gagged all judicial branch employees from the courthouse, including his own staff, clerks, probation officers, secretaries and court reporters.
In addition, the lawyers and their staffs; the U.S. Marshals Service; court security; any state, local or federal law enforcement officers; the alleged victim; and any witnesses are forbidden from making public statements.
He added that testimony from the grand jury proceedings, along with tapes, transcripts and other documents are not public.
Vinson's appointment runs to the end of this year, from Aug. 29, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2008, according to the order.
Vinson, appointed to the Florida trial bench by President Reagan in 1983, is considered by lawyers to be a smart, well-respected judge in the district and an "old school judge," according to lawyer comments in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary.
Among his best-known cases, in 1985 Vinson sentenced two men convicted of three abortion clinic bombings in Florida to 10 years in a minimum-security prison and said they should be eligible for parole "as soon as possible." In 1994 he rejected a justification defense by anti-abortion activist Paul J. Hill, who was charged with killing a doctor who performed abortions, along with the doctor's escort. Vinson wrote," There are legal alternatives, certainly legal alternatives far less intrusive and far less evil" than killing someone to stop abortions, in U.S. v. Hill, 893 F. Supp. 1044 (N.D. Fla. 1994).
He also upheld use of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act used to convict Hill.
5th Circuit Gives Prosecution of Texas Federal Judge to Fla. Judge
The National Law Journal
September 11, 2008