Sexual Misconduct by Federal Judges, the Secret System that Protects Them, and the Women Who Blew the Whistle
By LISE OLSEN
Nonfiction / True Crime / Metoo / The Courts
Publisher: Beacon Press **** 288 pages
Publication Date: August 9, 2022 (paperback)
Code of Silence tells the story of federal court employee Cathy McBroom, who had to flee her job as a case manager in Galveston, Texas, after enduring years of sexual harassment and assault by her boss-US District Judge Samuel Kent. Following a decade of firsthand reporting at the Houston Chronicle, investigative reporter Lise Olsen charts McBroom’s assault and the aftermath, when McBroom was thrust into the role of whistle-blower to denounce a federal judge.
What Olsen discovered by investigating McBroom’s story, and other federal judicial misconduct matters nationwide, was shocking. With the help of other federal judges, Kent was being protected by a secretive court system that has long tolerated, or ignored, complaints about corruption, sexism, and sexual misconduct – enabling him to remain in office for years. Other powerful judges accused of judicial misconduct were never investigated and remain in power, or retired with full pay, such as US Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Kozinski’s mentee, Brett Kavanaugh.
PRAISE FOR CODE OF SILENCE
Winner of the 2022 Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Book Award.
Winner of the 2022 Texas Institute of Letters Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Nonfiction.
“Another “true crime” book is being published later this month. But Code of Silence by Lise Olsen is not like most books – or podcasts -of that popular genre. For starters, there is no murder. We know who dunnit from the beginning. And it is anything but insensitive toward the victims and their families, a common criticism of many true crime stories. The culprit this time wasn’t a marginal member of society. U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent was a federal judge, known for both his brilliance and his bullying.” –Rick Casey, San Antonio Report
“A gutting new #metoo book,” –Rose Cahalan, Texas Monthly
“A long overdue exposé on how the judicial system suppresses claims of sexual harassment against judges. In this new era of reckoning with sexual assault and harassment, Code of Silence is essential reading.” –Anita Hill
Code of Silence is a beautifully written, disturbing as hell example of how the American experiment fails when it lets men set themselves up as kings.” –Houston Chronicle.
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| Bookwoman (Austin) | Brazos Books (Houston) | | Deep Vellum (Dallas) | Galveston Bookshop || Interabang Books (Dallas) | Literarity (El Paso) |
Don’t read this book if you are like me, and you don’t want to blow your blood pressure off the charts because you get incredibly angry at the injustices in this world.
Don’t read this book if you are like me and don’t want another reminder of how helpless most of us are in the face of the myriad of injustices plaguing our world.
But DO read this book if you want to learn more about how the judicial system in our country works, and, sadly, how it works in favor of the judges who are appointed at the highest levels and have lifetime protections.
Do read this book if you would like to meet one incredibly brave woman who decided to speak out about the ongoing sexual harassment she, and so many other women, experienced while working for men who believed they could get away with it.
Sadly, too many of them do.
Cathy McBroom was sexually assaulted by U. S. District Judge Samuel Kent in Galveston and was sexually harrassed by him numerous times, as was his long-time secretary Donna Wilkerson. Because of the power that he had to blackball her throughout the system so she could never get another job working for another judge she was warned off. Even when she went to her supervisor to report the incident of near-rape, she was cautioned that very little would happen to Kent but repercussions could be severe for McBroom.
It’s no wonder then that it took so long for Cathy McBroom to finally speak out.
Business, government, the military, the judicial system, and even our society has been controlled by white men in power for so long that women, and people of color, have had to struggle against great odds to break that grip of power. And, sadly, the grip barely has a crack in too many areas where men rule with intimidation, harassment, and outright threats.
This well documented look at the judicial system, and the ways it has dealt with complaints of sexual harassment, or not dealt with it, isn’t an easy read, but it’s an important one. It helps the reader understand how this system of protecting judges has been established and perhaps offers a glimmer of hope that those protections will be taken away sometime in the near future. Code of Silence also celebrates the courage and determination of Cathy McBroom. One woman who decided speaking out was worth the risk of losing her job and never being able to work as a case manager for another judge. Her brave step inspired other women to also take that risk and report their toxic workplaces.
I can’t say that I always enjoyed reading this book. What these women endured, and the way the judges tried to “excuse” the behavior, made me want to scream.
However, I can say that I’m glad Ms. Olsen brought this topic to light. This is a book that everyone needs to read to be aware of what goes on behind “the black robe” and take whatever action they can change the way the judicial system polices itself. Or fails to police itself.
Lise Olsen is a Texas-based investigative reporter and author who has uncovered many twisted tales, including crooked judges, an unjust execution, massive environmental disasters, myriad cases of corruption, and unsolved serial killings. Her reporting has contributed to the prosecutions of a former congressman and a federal judge, inspired laws and reforms, helped solve cold cases, restored names to unidentified murder victims, and freed dozens of wrongfully-held prisoners. Her work is featured in CNN’s “The Wrong Man” (2015) about the innocence claims of executed offender Ruben Cantu and the six-part A&E series on the victims of a 1970s serial killer, “The Eleven”, (2017). CODE OF SILENCE is her first book – the paperback from BEACON PRESS is out this month. She is at work on a second book: the SCIENTIST AND THE SERIAL KILLER.
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THREE WINNERS: Autographed copies of Code of Silence
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 8/13/22.)
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|8/3/22||Guest Post||Hall Ways Blog|
|8/4/22||Review||That’s What She’s Reading|
|8/4/22||BONUS Promo||LSBBT Blog|
|8/5/22||Top Ten List||Chapter Break Book Blog|
|8/7/22||Excerpt||All the Ups and Downs|
|8/8/22||Excerpt||Boys’ Mom Reads|
|8/9/22||Review||It’s Not All Gravy|
|8/10/22||Author Interview||The Clueless Gent|
|8/11/22||Review||The Plain-Spoken Pen|
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