By What Theory Is This Judge Qualified To Stay On The Bench?

How low can judicial standards of ethics go? In the 10th Circuit, apparently, pretty low.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas, is an appointee of President Bill Clinton. His sister is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was also appointed by Clinton.

According to the Tenth Circuit’s judicial council recent opinion following a judicial conduct investigation, Judge  Murguia gave “preferential treatment and unwanted attention to female employees of the judiciary in the form of sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate text messages, and excessive, non-work-related contact, much of which occurred after work hours and often late at night.” In other words, he is a serial sexual harasser. The harassed employees, the investigation found,  were reluctant to tell Murguia to stop his abuse because of his power as a federal judge.  One victim finally complained.  Murguia continued the harassing conduct anyway.

There’s more! The judge had a years-long relationship with a felon, convicted of state-court crimes, who was using drugs and on probation. Now the felon is back in prison for probation violations. Judge Murguia placed himself in such a compromised position that he was at risk of extortion, the council found.

In more mundane misconduct, the judge was habitually late for court proceedings and meetings for years. He had regularly scheduled lunchtime basketball games, you see.  Priorities! Murguia’s tardiness often required attorneys, parties and juries to wait, and sometimes made attorneys late for proceedings in other courtrooms.

The judge was admonished about his tardiness  early in his judicial career “but his conduct persisted nevertheless,” the judicial council said.

When he was first confronted with the allegations, the judicial council said, Judge Murguia “did not fully disclose the extent of his misconduct….He tended to admit to allegations only when confronted with supporting documentary evidence. His apologies appeared more tied to his regret that his actions were brought to light than an awareness of, and regret for, the harm he caused to the individuals involved and to the integrity of his office.”

And the  official response to the judge’s long-standing, serious ethical breaches?  The judge received a public reprimand. He gets to stay a judge, despite repeated examples of bad judgment, over many years.

He did say he was sorry.



11 thoughts on “By What Theory Is This Judge Qualified To Stay On The Bench?

  1. Lifetime appointment.

    The only ways to remove him are shame-clearly lacking-or impeachment. Impeachment remains a possibility it has only been a short time since the reprimand, Congress hasn’t exactly had time to act. If you have a congresscritter on the judiciary committee call and suggest this be put on the schedule.

      • That is not for the council to determine, however.

        It would be nice to see the Congress take that up.

        My question: why mention his sister? I did not see the relevance.


        • Just a guess, but maybe a sister sitting on a higher court — appellate vs. district — would imply some kind of power or protection that a similar judge, without the sister in place, might not enjoy. Again this would be in the minds of the judicial council, a group of other judges. I wonder if those other victims who did not initially complain were swayed by this.

    • Surely certain presidential candidates and those in Congress who favor impeaching Kavanaugh will be interested in this case?

      • HA!

        The Swamp protects their own, and if the deplorable peons get the idea that there are consequences for Swamp crimes, er, privileges, where would the accountability stop?

        Our betters have to stay out of jail! They have an obligation to oppress lead us out of their self righteous enlightenment.

  2. By the theory that judges, like most groups, protect their own, and that judges are especially hard to discipline. This is the same theory that led the trial board of the Baltimore PD to recommend a six-day suspension for Officer Rivieri, who manhandled a teen on camera for daring to use the word “dude” and forced the Commissioner to fire him when firing should have been an easy call. It’s the same theory that led my own city’s fire department disciplinary board to give a member who forged a memo from a non-existent captain to get into open enrollment after it had closed a thirty day suspension rather than firing him and referring the case up the hill for criminal charges. It’s the same theory that led the powers that be in NJ to keep at least three judges of color or who were women on the bench even after sexual harassment and abusive behavior claims that would have ended a white man’s career. He’s a person of color, too, you see, and we can’t take away their role models and heroes.

  3. The only theory I can think of is that the Constitution allows him to be on the bench for life during “good behavior.” The only way he can be removed is impeachment, which is provided for those judges (like this one) who exhibit “bad behavior.” This behavior is pretty bad, but getting to impeachment in the US judiciary turns out to be a remarkably daunting task.

    And the official response to the judge’s long-standing, serious ethical breaches? The judge received a public reprimand. He gets to stay a judge, despite repeated examples of bad judgment, over many years.

    After having read the rules of the Judicial Council, that’s about the best they can do short of an impeachment recommendation or requesting the judge voluntarily retire. They could refer the matter to the Judicial Conference if they think it is impeachable, but apparently they don’t.

    The number of bureaucratic layers that stands between a judge and impeachment is impressive in the extreme. I can’t believe we’ve ever managed it.

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