Federal judge announces resignation amid scrutiny over reprimand for sexual harassment
Originally published; Feb 19, 2020
A federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, announced his resignation Tuesday, less than two weeks after members of Congress asked for more information on the judiciary’s response to a misconduct finding against him.
Murguia was reprimanded in October for sexually harassing court employees, having an extramarital relationship with a convicted felon on probation, and being late for court.
“In recent months, it has become clear that I can no longer effectively serve the court in this capacity,” Murguia wrote. “I therefore tender my resignation with a heavy heart and profound apologies, out of respect for the federal judiciary, my colleagues, my community and—most importantly—my family.”
In a Feb. 6 letter, members of the House Judiciary Committee posed several questions to judiciary leaders. They included whether protections had been provided to employees harassed by Murguia, whether there are policies in place to prevent future misconduct, and whether there are policies to review personnel decisions that may have been influenced by misconduct.
The letter asked for answers by Thursday.
Murguia is leaving without eligibility for a pension or retirement benefits, according to a statement by the chief judge of the federal court in Kansas that was cited by the Kansas City Star. He was appointed to the bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.
Federal judges must be 65 and have served 15 years to qualify for retirement compensation; Murguia was born in 1957.
The Kansas City Star reported that the resignation puts an end to an ongoing review of complaints against Murguia by the U.S. Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability.
Lawmakers ask for ‘frank examination’ of response to federal judge’s sexual misconduct
Originally published; Feb 7, 2020
Members of the House Judiciary Committee are calling for “a frank examination of the adequacy of the steps taken to address” sexual misconduct by a federal judge in Kansas.
In a Feb. 6 letter, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and three other committee members asked for more information about the response to misconduct by U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas.
Murguia was publicly reprimanded Sept. 30 for sexually harassing court employees, having an extramarital relationship with a convicted felon on probation, and being late for court engagements. Murguia was back on the bench Monday, Oct. 7, according to a press release by Fix the Court.
The 10th Circuit Judicial Council found that Murguia made sexually suggestive comments; sent inappropriate text messages; and had excessive, nonwork-related conduct with employees. But the employees were reluctant to report the behavior because of Murguia’s power as a federal judge, according to the lawmakers’ letter.
The letter requested answers to several specific questions, including these:
• The reprimand did not state when Murguia’s misconduct began or how many people were harassed. Will the information be disclosed at a later point? Are there policies in place for disclosure to prevent future misconduct?
• What protections have been provided to those who were harassed, and what steps have other federal courts taken to ensure support for individuals in similar situations?
• Is there a system in place allowing court employees to anonymously report misconduct?
• What policies are in place to review personnel decisions that may be influenced by misconduct committed by a judge or supervisor?
• Will the district of Kansas investigate whether other judges were concerned about Murguia’s behavior and, if so, why they didn’t file complaints?
Last March, the federal judiciary adopted new rules making clear that sexual harassment is banned, and that judges and their employees have a reporting obligation when such conduct happens.
The rule changes are a response to recommendations of a working group formed after the resignation of Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco. Fifteen women had accused Kozinski of inappropriate sexual comments and conduct in two Washington Post articles.
The lawmakers’ letter was addressed to the secretary of the U.S. Judicial Conference and the chief judges of the 10th Circuit at Denver and the federal court for the district of Kansas.
Three of the lawmakers who signed the letter are Democrats, and one is a Republican.
The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts has scheduled a Feb. 13 hearing on protecting judiciary employees from workplace misconduct.