Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Based on an agreed statement of facts, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured a judge for (1) misusing Department of Motor Vehicle records and using court staff, stationery, and equipment for the judge’s personal activities; (2) making sexually related comments toward female court employees; (3) being absent from the courthouse without reporting the days as vacation time; and (4) regularly leaving the courthouse when the Friday calendar was completed, sometimes as early as noon.  Inquiry Concerning Hyde, Decision and Order of Public Censure (California Commission on Judicial Performance May 10, 1996).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for improperly intervening on behalf of a woman with whom he had an intimate relationship in an investigation of a child welfare matter.  In the Matter of Kaplan, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 6, 1996).

Uncomfortable, angry, and hurt

Based on a stipulation and the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline, the Colorado Supreme Court accepted the resignation of a judge and publicly censured her for (1) using the N-word in a conversation with a Black staff member; (2) expressing her views about criminal justice, police brutality, race, and racial bias while wearing her robe in the courthouse and on the bench; (3) referring to a judicial colleague in derogatory terms; and (4) using court staff for personal tasks.  In the Matter of Chase, Order (Colorado Supreme Court April 16, 2021). 

In late January or early February 2020, the judge drove a family court facilitator and the judge’s law clerk in her car to and from a safe baby program.  The judge is White; the family court facilitator is Black.  On the way back from the program, the judge asked the family court facilitator why Black people can use the N-word but White people cannot and whether it was different if the N-word is said with an “er” or an “a” at the end.  During the conversation, the judge used the full N-word a number of times.  The family court facilitator was uncomfortable, angry, and hurt by the conversation but could not leave the car or the conversation and did not express her emotions because she feared retaliation by the judge.  She explained that the judge’s use of the full N-word was “like a stab through my heart each time.”  

The judge maintained that she did not intend any racial animus, but acknowledged that her statements violated the code of judicial conduct.  The Commission concluded that, “although not directed at any person, saying the N-word has a significant negative effect on the public’s confidence in integrity of and respect for the judiciary.”

In early February 2020, the judge was on the bench, wearing her robe, during a break in court proceedings.  There were 2 or 3 other people in the courtroom.  2 employees in the courtroom were Black.  When someone brought up watching the Super Bowl, the judge stated, from the bench, that she would be boycotting the Super Bowl because she objected to the NFL players who were kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality against Black people.

On the Monday in May 2020 after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota and after there were Black Lives Matter protests in Denver, 2 Black court employees were in the judge’s courtroom.  One of them asked the other if they had seen the George Floyd protests.  The judge, while wearing her robe and sitting on the bench, told the employees some of her opinions regarding racial justice issues and asked questions about the Black Lives Matter movement.  The employee tried to explain the Black Lives Matter movement; the judge stated that she believes all lives matter.  The judge also stated that the conduct of the police officers in the George Floyd matter should be investigated.

In the first half of 2020, the judge told her clerk she was meeting with another judge.  When she returned from the meeting, the clerk asked how it went, and Judge Chase called the other judge a “f****** b****.”

In early 2020, the judge directed her law clerk to do some legal research related to a personal family legal issue that was unrelated to the judge’s official case load.

In August 2020, the judge had a medical episode at the courthouse.  After courtroom deputies came to her aid, the judge declined an ambulance.  She then asked one of the court employees to drive her to the emergency room.  The judge also asked the court employee to stay with her at the hospital.  The employee missed a half day of work to accommodate the judge.

Throughout 2020, the judge forwarded personal emails to her clerk and asked her clerk to edit or rewrite the emails to read better before the judge sent them.

The judge repeatedly and discourteously discussed personal and family matters with staff and other employees in office work areas and as part of court business.