Kansas case spurs House panel inquiry on judicial harassment

Kansas case spurs House panel inquiry on judicial harassment

WICHITA, Kan. — The U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Thursday questioned the adequacy of the protections against workplace harassment and misconduct in the judicial branch after a federal judge in Kansas was publicly reprimanded for sexually harassing female employees and having an extramarital affair with an offender.

The Judicial Council for the 10th U.S. Circuit admonished U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia last September for subjecting employees to sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate text messages and excessive, non-work contact.

The Judicial Council’s findings “document very troubling workplace behavior by an active judge that was never reported,” the committee said in a letter to James C. Duff of the Judicial Conference of the United States, Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and Chief Judge Julie Robinson of the District of Kansas.

The Council has not said what has been done to ensure a safe workplace for Murguia’s co-workers and other employees, the letter says. Murguia is based in Kansas City, Kansas.

The congressional leaders asked what support has been provided for employees who work with Murguia, whether they have been provided an opportunity to seek work elsewhere in the court, when the misconduct began and how many people he harassed. It also seeks answers on whether any of the people he harassed suffered negative personnel decisions and whether any plan is in place to review his personnel decisions.

It asks why none of the employees felt comfortable filing a complaint against Murguia and seeks to discover whether other judges in the federal courts in Kansas were concerned about his behavior.

The committee requested a response by Feb. 20.

While the letter thanks the Judicial Council for making its order against Murguia public, it says partial transparency is “never enough.” The congressional leaders wrote that they hoped there would be a frank examination of the adequacy of the steps taken to address Murguia’s misconduct and what further actions are needed to ensure that the judicial branch provides a safe workplace.

The letter was signed by Chairman Jerald Nadler, Vice Chair Mary Gay Scanlon along with Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr., chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.

In addition, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet plans a hearing Feb. 13 examining the judiciary’s protections against workplace harassment, discrimination and other misconduct. The hearing aims to provide oversight on the judiciary’s steps to reform its policies and to build a record for possible legislation.

Under the federal judiciary’s rules, the 10th Circuit’s decision is not the final step in the process, said David Sellers, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Those rules show that the Judicial Council must transmit its order to the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability for review.

Murguia, who apologized for his conduct when the Judicial Council issued its rebuke last year, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the congressional leaders’ letter.

Murguia was appointed to his federal judgeship in 1999 by then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, after serving as a Kansas district court judge in Kansas City. He was the first Hispanic federal judge appointed in Kansas.

Published at Thu, 06 Feb 2020 10:35:00 +0000

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *