The Tenth Circuit Judicial Council publicly reprimanded District Court Judge Carlos Murguia for sexual harassment Sept. 30, the judiciary’s most severe available sanction.
The Council, made up of seven district and circuit court judges, found that the longtime judge “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.”
It also found that, although Murguia eventually admitted his misconduct, he “was less than candid,” admitting “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,” the council said.
The council is not authorized to remove a judge from the bench, and didn’t recommend to Congress that it initiate impeachment proceedings, which could lead to removal.
A recent Bloomberg Law analysis found that disciplinary actions are extremely rare when judicial misconduct is reported, occurring only 33 times between 2010 and 2018.
The council nevertheless thought the public reprimand was warranted because of the seriousness of the misconduct, which, it said, “calls for transparency and a powerful disincentive.”
Murguia, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the “first Hispanic named to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas,” according to the court website.
The Judicial Council also found that Murguia engaged in an inappropriate extramarital relationship with a “drug-using” convict. Although such relationships don’t always constitute misconduct, here the council found that the context made Murguia “susceptible to extortion.”
Moreover, the council found that Murguia was frequently late to court proceedings, wasting the time of lawyers, juries, and staff. “A repeated cause of this tardiness was Judge Murguia’s regularly scheduled lunchtime basketball games,” it found.
Murguia agreed not to appeal the decision.