Book Review and Blog Tour: Code of Silence by Lise Olsen | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Sexual Misconduct by Federal Judges, the Secret System that Protects Them, and the Women Who Blew the Whistle
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 Casey, San Antonio Report

“A gutting new #metoo book,” Rose CahalanTexas 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


(Available in Paperback on 8/9/22)

| 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) |

In Code of Silence, Lise Olsen offers a meticulously detailed, blood-pressure-raising look at one federal employee’s experience with sexual harassment and with the system that was ostensibly designed to respond to complaints like hers. But the system was never designed to protect victims and hold federal judges accountable.

I’m an attorney by education and current employment. Early in my legal career, I served as an assistant district attorney for two Texas counties. As a former officer of the court myself (albeit at the county level, nowhere near federal), the events described in Code of Silence make me want to throw the book across the room and punch somebody. At the county level, we had district court judges who expected folks to ask “how high” when they said “jump.” We had judges who could be sarcastic and sometimes downright mean when people didn’t conform to the judge’s expected norms of conduct in a courtroom. But the behavior described on the part of Judge Samuel Kent and other federal judges, appointed for life with effectively no oversight, toward women in their courts’ employ is absolutely appalling and beyond the pale.

Any sort of protection for those sexually harassed, even physically assaulted, by a federal judge was slow in coming. When a system was finally put into place, it was the judiciary policing itself. Talk about the inmates running the asylum. Female federal employees weren’t told that they had any option to report sexual assault or harassment. If victims finally worked up the nerve to report what happened (tough to do when it’s impressed upon them that “what happens in court, stays in court” – it’s all confidential), they were told that federal laws designed to protect victims didn’t apply to the federal judiciary. Cathy McBroom, the woman whose experiences Olsen details, was told that she could report what had happened to her, but it was more likely that doing so would hurt her, while nothing much would happen to the judge. And most of the federal employees described in the book were so worried about the potential loss of a good job that they’d rather look the other way than stand up with a woman victimized.

Most disgusting to me was that the lead on a Fifth Circuit panel of judges tasked with investigating sexual harassment by a judge was a woman. A conservative female justice was in charge, and she was probably less supportive of victims’ claims and more judgmental toward the victims themselves than male justices were. The behavior described here by these judges, I’d almost go back to being a prosecutor for a chance to take them down.

The book isn’t an easy read, but it is important. Things are no longer as bad as they were for Cathy McBroom. Progress has been made. But if we allow ourselves to forget history, we are doomed to repeat it. In the time of #MeToo, it’s important that we not forget that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, no matter the power of the position their employers may hold. Lise Olsen’s words help us to remember that.


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 August, 2022. She is at work on a second book: THE SCIENTIST AND THE SERIAL KILLER.

Website * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon


THREE WINNERS: Autographed copies of Code of Silence

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 8/13/22.)

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4 Responses to Book Review and Blog Tour: Code of Silence by Lise Olsen | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

  1. An impassioned review! It’s the mark of a great writer (& solid research) when she gets our blood boiling over injustices. I really want to read this book, no matter how upsetting, because you are right that we must stay informed of the past as well as the present as we move forward towards equality. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Maryann says:

    Terrific review. It’s good to have an attorney weigh in on the topic.

    • Thank you! I tell you what, if I’d ever worked with a judge like the ones described in the book, I’d have gotten myself fired. I would not have been able to put up with that kind of behavior, not even as a new attorney right out of law school.

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