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.