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Ethics Violation in Tenth Circuit Ends with a Promise to Do Better

In clear violation of the judicial Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, FEC records indicate that District of Colorado Judge William Martinez (right) donated funds to a political campaign.

According to reporting by CQ Roll Call, Martinez, who has been a federal judge since 2010, donated $365 to Deborah Ross’ 2016 U.S. Senate campaign in North Carolina.

After Fix the Court notified District of Colorado Chief Judge Philip Brimmer of this story, an investigation was conducted by the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council, which has authority over the District of Colorado.

Martinez told them that the funds were donated by his wife, erroneously under his name, after which circuit executive told FTC that Martinez “has taken measures to ensure that it will not happen again.”

It is unclear if that means Martinez has refamiliarized himself with his ethical obligations as a federal judge or simply removed his name from an auto-populated field. It is also unclear if the funds in question were refunded.

“All federal judges – and justices, for that matter – would do well to consider how their actions add to the increasing perception that courts are merely another arena for partisan politics,” FTC’s Gabe Roth said.

Cannon Five of the Code of Conduct prohibits political activity and specifies that a judge should not “make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a political organization or candidate” (p. 18).

Martinez was one of two sitting judges found to have donated to political campaigns by CQ Roll Call. Central District of Illinois Judge Colin Bruce donated to Sen. Richard Durbin’s reelection campaign, though he was refunded the full amount after his donations were brought to the attention of the senator’s campaign staff.

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