Blog Tour & Giveaway: Code of Silence by Lise Olsen

Code of Silence:

Sexual Misconduct by Federal Judges,

the Secret System that Protects Them,

 and the Women Who Blew the Whistle


Lise Olsen


Nonfiction / True Crime / Metoo / The Courts

Publisher: Beacon Press

Pages: 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


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 CaseySan 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.

“Flight: Houston and Galveston, Texas, March 2007”




For nearly five years, McBroom had served US District Judge Samuel Bristow Kent. Kent was part of the powerful network of federal jurists whose lifetime appointments were guaranteed by the Constitution. Cathy McBroom was part of a vast national court bureaucracy of people who served at the pleasure of such judges. Initially, McBroom had raved about her “dream job,” which provided the financial stability she’d craved and a federal salary of more than $70,000 plus benefits. Later there had been trouble with the judge, though McBroom had explained to her mother that she, like all federal court employees, was bound by an oath to respect court confidentiality. She and other employees were subject to a strict code of conduct and generally never discussed the inner workings of the court or any judge’s behind-the-scenes behavior.

Whatever Kent had done, it had been bad, Schopp knew. Her eldest child had always been a steady, strong woman on whom Schopp herself had leaned when her first marriage fell apart and she’d divorced McBroom’s father. But this morning all of her daughter’s self-confidence and control appeared cracked, if not shattered.

McBroom kept repeating in a monotone that she couldn’t discuss anything.

“If you can’t talk about it, you’ve got to get it out,” Schopp insisted. “Go use the computer in my studio. Type down every little incident you can remember.”

Schopp wasn’t sure she should leave her anguished daughter behind, but birthday duty called. She drove off to fetch her grandson and ferried a carload of gangly adolescents with floppy hair and feet too big for the rest of their growing bodies to Clear Lake’s AMF Alpha Lanes, the bowling alley where the usual cake, Cokes, and souvenir ten-pin awaited. She invented excuses when her grandson asked about his missing mom.

Alone in the snug yellow-brick house, McBroom felt marginally safer surrounded by the comfortable clutter of her mother and stepfather’s blended lives, their cobbled-together furniture, aging housecats, and many memories of family gatherings and home-cooked meals. This was not McBroom’s childhood home, but it was a familiar place—her mother had purchased it more than twenty years before with Don, her mother’s second husband. McBroom had grown up in the industrialized Houston suburb of Channelview, where she had learned from her own dad, a tough chemical plant worker, to fight for herself as a girl, even when that meant using her fists to quiet a bully or walking away from the boyfriend who punched a hole in her parents’ garage wall. Today, though, she felt none of that strength.

McBroom shut herself up in the front bedroom that served as a combination office and a studio for her mother’s oil painting. Colorful canvases filled with hand-painted roses and chrysanthemums surrounded McBroom as she stared into the void of the computer screen, digging deep inside to find words. Beside her in frames and on the wall of the hallway just outside the small room were images from other stages of her life. McBroom as a chubby toddler with her hair pulled back in a ponytail; McBroom smiling in a crowded gathering at her grandmother’s ninetieth birthday; formal portraits of the two children, Evelyn, and Casey, whom she’d had after marrying her childhood sweetheart; and a party picture of McBroom in a glittery black dress and holding hands with her second husband, Rex, the father of her son Caleb, whose birthday party she was missing.

Mostly she’d been a good mother. Her children knew she had their backs. And she’d often acted as the fixer for her parents and her younger brother, too, providing the glue that held the family together or, when that proved impossible, providing comfort when things fell apart. Along the way, she’d built a solid career as an experienced assistant in the cutthroat legal profession in lawyers’ offices and later attained an important post in the federal district court clerk’s office, workplaces that in the 1990s and 2000s remained largely male-dominated worlds tinged with sexism. In her forties, she’d begun to run marathons and completed five races in one memorable year. She normally buzzed with energy. But she’d never faced anything as difficult as this self-appointed task.

McBroom had decided to denounce a powerful federal judge. And she would do this alone. She knew her written words, once shared, would make an enemy of a jurist who’d earned a national reputation among law professors as a bully, and who had repeatedly proved himself capable of humiliating, harassing, and harming the careers of anyone who crossed him. This man had both an extraordinarily domineering personality and the formidable power of the robe he wore.

McBroom had never known any woman personally who had taken on a federal jurist for sexual misconduct except what she’d read and seen about Anita Hill. Back in 1991, McBroom and many other American women had been outraged and inspired as they watched the University of Oklahoma law professor testify before an all-male US Senate Judicial Committee about how Clarence Thomas, then a federal judge and US Supreme Court nominee, had sexually harassed her in his years as her boss in two different federal government jobs. Hill had worked for Thomas both in the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Education and again when he became chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that supposedly specializes in helping people who struggle with on-the-job harassment and discrimination. The experience hadn’t turned out so well for Hill, McBroom knew. Thomas had won a seat on the Supreme Court anyway. Hill had been branded as a liar by conservative commentators and ridiculed for testifying about how Thomas asked her about pubic hair on a Coke can and described scenes in porn films featuring large-breasted women having sex with men and animals.

McBroom still felt physically sick when she recalled what had happened to her that Friday inside Kent’s wood-paneled chambers—a formal yet intimate space that smelled of the judge’s illicit cigar breaks, his collection of law books, and his bulldogs. She feared that her decision to flee meant that he would seek revenge and ruin her career.


(Paperback edition available on 8/9)

 | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Beacon Press |

  **autographed copies available through the following Texas Indie booksellers**

 | Bookwoman (Austin) | Brazos Books (Houston) |

| Deep Vellum (Dallas) | Galveston Bookshop |

Interabang Books (Dallas) | Literarity (El Paso) |


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.



THREE WINNERS: Autographed copies of Code of Silence.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 8/13.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway





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