In a rare public rebuke, the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit concluded on Mon., Sept. 30, that District of Kansas Judge Carlos Murguia (right) “committed judicial misconduct.”
But it’s even worse than it sounds: the Council found that Murguia sexually harassed judiciary employees, engaged in an extramarital relationship with a felon and was frequently late for court proceedings.
Yet instead of these findings being referred to the Judicial Conference as the next step toward impeachment proceedings, Murguia will be back on the bench in Kansas City at 9:30 a.m. on Mon., Oct. 7.
Even after an employee explicitly told Murguia to stop his harassing conduct, he continued unabated. The Council also said that the judge’s extramarital affair with a drug-using felon made him “susceptible to extortion” and that he was “less than candid” with the committee investigating the matter, only admitting his misbehavior when provided with “documentary evidence” of his wrongdoing.
Writing on behalf of the Council, Judge Tim Tymkovich said the appropriate response here was to detail these findings publicly and to privately come to an agreement with Murguia on “certain corrective actions.” Even a few days after this news broke, we don’t know what those corrective actions are or how effective they may be. We probably never will.
“When a judge’s own acts harm the public’s faith in his fitness for office, the supposed remedy should not be kept secret from the public,” FTC’s Gabe Roth said.
What’s worse, Tymkovich added in a footnote, “[T]he evidence and facts in this matter are insufficient to recommend the Judicial Conference refer this matter to Congress for impeachment.”
Yet Tymkovich’s description of the misconduct belies his conclusion. In his own words, “Judge Murguia’s relationship with a convicted felon on probation could cause ‘reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances,’ to ‘conclude that the judge’s honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge is impaired.’”
Murguia has contravened the requirement that a judge maintain “good behavior” in office. Thus the appropriate recourse is impeachment.
“Future litigants, as well as court staff, should not be subjected to a judge proven to be incapable of upholding the basic ethical requirements of the office,” Roth added. “Such a judge should no longer be ‘in office.'”
At the very least, Fix the Court believes that whoever brought the complaint is well within his or her rights to appeal the Council’s determination to the Judicial Conference.