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Before He Quit, Federal Judge In Kansas City, Kansas, Faced Possible Impeachment For Misconduct

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U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
Carlos Murguia, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, resigned last month amid a slew of allegations, including sexually harassing one of his employees.

A panel that reviews judicial misconduct has ended its investigation of U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia because he resigned, but it said his misconduct was serious enough to warrant possible referral to Congress for impeachment.

In an 11-page memorandum released Tuesday, the panel disclosed that the misconduct allegations against Murguia surfaced as far back as April 2016, when two fellow judges received reports that Murguia had sexually harassed one of his employees.

The memorandum said Murguia expressed remorse for his conduct and agreed to undergo treatment by a medical professional. But after that medical professional said in October 2016 that Murguia had successfully completed treatment , additional allegations surfaced that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with a convicted felon.

The panel said that called into question Murguia's truthfulness. 

In response, the 10th Circuit Judicial Council, which handles judicial misconduct complaints out of Kansas federal courts, hired a retired FBI agent to investigate further. The investigator uncovered additional information, including Murguia’s sexual harassment of two more court employees, the panel said.

After the information was presented to the chief circuit judge, a special committee was appointed to investigate. The committee issued a lengthy report to the 10th Circuit Judicial Council last July and the council unanimously adopted its conclusions: Murguia had committed judicial misconduct by sexually harassing court employees, engaging in an extramarital relationship with the convicted felon and being habitually tardy for court engagements.

The council also noted that Murguia was “less than candid” about his misconduct.

“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 stated.

The council then issued a rare public reprimand of Murguia and directed him to undergo further treatment, provide written apologies to the three court employees he harassed, not participate in any internship program, advise the chief district and circuit judges of any threats of extortion and submit to other conditions.  

The panel, formally known as the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States, was also looking into whether Murguia’s conduct might be grounds for impeachment when Murguia submitted his resignation to President Trump last month, effective April 1.

“We note that the underlying misconduct, as found by the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council, is serious enough to have warranted our deliberations over a referral to Congress for its consideration of impeachment,” the panel wrote. “But Judge Murguia’s resignation and removal of his judicial functions will terminate this Committee’s continued jurisdiction over this matter as of April 1, and we are required to conclude the proceedings.”

Unlike some other judges who resigned while they were under investigation, Murguia will not receive any pension or other retirement benefits because he does not meet the necessary age and length-of-service requirements to receive them.

Murguia, through an attorney who represented him during the misconduct proceedings, said his prior statements on the matter would be his only comment. In his resignation letter, Murguia said he was resigning “with a heavy heart and profound apologies, out of respect for the federal judiciary, my colleagues, my community and – most importantly – my family.”

Murguia was nominated to the federal bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. He grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and comes from a well-known family. His younger sister Mary Murguia is a federal appeals court judge in Arizona. Another sister, Janet Murguia, is the president and CEO of UnidosUS, formerly the National Council of La Raza.

Murguia's resignation came shortly after four members of the House Judiciary Committee last month questioned whether court officials had done enough to protect court employees from sexual harassment and sought more details about his case.

The issue of sexual harassment in the federal judiciary has come into sharp relief in recent years. In 2017, a prominent federal appellate judge, Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, resigned after several of his former female law clerks accused him of sexual harassment

Just last month, Olivia Warren, who served as a law clerk to the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt, also of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, submitted written testimony to a House subcommittee stating that Reinhart “routinely and frequently made disparaging statements about my physical appearance, my views about feminism and women's rights, and my relationship with my husband (including our sexual relationship).”

Under new rules adopted last year, federal judges and federal court employees are expected to call out “unwanted, offensive or abusive sexual conduct” and conditions creating a hostile work environment.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

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