Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Judicial Council’s Public Reprimand of District Judge Carlos Murguia

I somehow missed the news a month or so ago that the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit had used its “most severe sanction”—a public reprimand—against federal district judge Carlos Murguia of the District of Kansas for three types of judicial misconduct: “(1) sexually harassing Judiciary employees; (2) engaging in an extramarital sexual relationship with an individual who had been convicted of felonies in state court and was then on probation; and (3) demonstrating habitual tardiness for court engagements.” Murguia was appointed a federal judge by President Clinton in 1999. (He is the brother of Ninth Circuit judge Mary Murguia.)

On the first category of misconduct:

Judge Murguia 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. All of the harassed employees stated that they were reluctant to tell Judge Murguia to cease his behavior because of the power he held as a federal judge. One of the employees eventually told him explicitly to stop his harassing conduct, but he continued.

On the second:

Judge Murguia engaged in a years-long extramarital sexual relationship with a drug-using individual who was then on probation and is now incarcerated (because of probation violations) for state-court felony convictions. A judge’s sexual affair does not constitute misconduct in all cases; whether a judge’s affair, even with a convicted felon, is misconduct depends on the circumstances surrounding the relationship. But the Special Committee found, and the Council agrees, that Judge Murguia placed himself in such a compromised position that he made himself susceptible to extortion.

On the third:

Judge Murguia has been habitually late for court proceedings and meetings for years. The Special Committee found general agreement among witnesses that Judge Murguia was frequently late for court proceedings, often requiring attorneys, parties, and juries to wait, and sometimes making attorneys late for proceedings in other courtrooms. A repeated cause of this tardiness was Judge Murguia’s regularly scheduled lunchtime basketball games on days when he had hearings or trials, leaving the jury and others waiting for him to return. Judge Murguia was counseled about his tardiness fairly early in his federal judicial career, but his conduct persisted nonetheless.

Further:

Judge Murguia was less than candid with the Special Committee. When initially confronted with the allegations, he did not fully disclose the extent of his misconduct. He tended to admit to 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.

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