Letter asks for answers to specific questions in federal judge’s sexual misconduct case.
U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas was publicly reprimanded last fall for “sexually harassing court employees, having an extramarital relationship with a convicted felon on probation, and being late for court engagements,” according to records. Murguia was back in the courtroom, assuming this position on the bench, Monday, October 7. Now, House Judiciary Committee members are asking for “a frank examination of the adequacy of the steps taken to address” sexual misconduct.
The 10th Circuit Judicial Council found that Murguia “made sexually suggestive comments; sent inappropriate text messages; and had excessive, nonwork-related conduct with employees.” However, the employees hesitated to report the judge’s actions because of Murguia’s position as a federal judge.
“I also apologize to my colleagues on the court, all of whom I very much respect, as well as my former wife, Ann, and our children, my family, my friends, and the public,” Murguia’s said. “I regret that I had an inappropriate relationship with an acquaintance who was on state court probation”
The order issued by the Committee responded, “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 individuals involved and to the integrity of his office. Moreover, his misconduct is very serious and occurred over a lengthy period.”
A judiciary spokesperson said that “ the reprimand is not the final step in the process” and the latest letter, 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, is asking for answers to all of the following;
“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?”
Three of the lawmakers who signed the letter are Democrats, and one is a Republican. The group formed after the resignation of Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco and adopted new rules banning sexual harassment, including new reporting procedures. In total, fifteen women had accused Kozinski of inappropriate comments and conduct.
The House Judiciary Committee’s letter said the “findings about Murguia call into question the degree to which 30,000 workers employed by the federal judiciary are protected from wrongful workplace conduct.” It also “notes that employees receiving Murguia’s harassment were reluctant to tell the judge to stop because of his power in the workplace over them.”
The Committee said, “In light of these serious allegations, we write to inquire about the adequacy of the rules and statutes governing judicial misconduct, and the effectiveness of the Judiciary’s recent reforms to address workplace harassment.”