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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’s chief judge.

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. (Full quote from the Tenth Circuit executive at the bottom.)

“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.


“Judge Brimmer […] referred the matter to the Tenth Circuit, and we viewed it as potential matter of judicial misconduct. Those matters are generally confidential, but we have resolved this matter and can provide the following information. We asked Judge Martinez to respond to the allegations you set forth in your email to Judge Brimmer. Judge Martinez understands the ethical proscription against making political contributions after taking the bench, and he has not made any political contributions since his Senate hearing. His wife made the contributions in question, but the online platform used his previous information rather than hers, making it look like he made the contributions. Neither he nor his wife were aware of this at the time. Since you brought it to his attention, he has taken measures to ensure that it will not happen again.”

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