Federal judge publicly reprimanded after sexual misconduct allegations

A panel of judges on Monday publicly admonished a federal judge in Kansas for sexual misconduct and having an extramarital affair that could have put him at risk of “extortion.”

A special committee that investigated allegations against US District Judge Carlos Murguia found that he had sexually harassed female employees, made “sexually suggestive” comments and sent “inappropriate texts” often late into the night, according to an order released by the court. The order also says all of the harassed employees said they had been reluctant to tell Murguia to stop his behavior “because of the power he held as a federal judge.” One employee told him to stop his behavior, but he continued, the order says.

The committee also found that Murguia had an extramarital affair for years with someone who used drugs, was on probation and is now incarcerated for probation violations — a circumstance that put him in “such a compromised position that he made himself susceptible to extortion.” Murguia had also been “habitually late for court proceedings and meetings for years” and was counseled about it but continued with his actions, the committee found.

The Denver-based 10th Circuit says Murguia admitted to the misconduct but “was less than candid” when initially confronted by the allegations, admitting to the accusations only when presented with “documentary evidence.”

The committee that investigated the allegations found no evidence that Murguia had continued the misconduct after being served with the complaint. The court document notes that the judge has apologized, said he will not engage in further inappropriate conduct and offered “to take voluntary corrective action.”

The judicial council stopped short of referring Murguia to Congress for any possible investigation for impeachment, making it likely that the judge — who was nominated to the bench by President Bill Clinton 20 years ago — will keep his lifetime appointment.

Rarely do sexual misconduct allegations against federal judges become public, even belatedly, and rarely are judges who misbehave subject to any sanction, a 2018 CNN study found. The judicial council thought Murguia’s actions were “too serious and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Judiciary in the mind of the public too important for a private reprimand.”

In late 2018, the 10th Circuit judicial council dismissed 83 complaints that had been filed against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Its order said that Kavanaugh, as a Supreme Court justice, was no longer covered by the judiciary’s misconduct rules. That decision was affirmed by the federal judiciary’s top panel on judges’ conduct in August.