A Larimer County, Colorado Judge recently was suspended following an investigation by the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. The court record of these proceedings has been made available to the public.
The record certainly paints a picture of a continued display of offensive conduct often rising to the level of sexual harassment. Among the allegations are that the judge frequently pointed out how overweight a court collection officer was, told a defense attorney that she looked beautiful and questioned her about her dating life, frequently commented on another defense attorney’s appearance in a positive manner, and mentioned that one court clerk would look great in a bathing suit. The judge further referred to female defendants as lovely young ladies, chatted personally with defendants and attorneys, asked his clerks to assist him with personal business, and once used the word “fag” in the presence of a homosexual clerk.
While much of this conduct may be shocking, a lot of these behaviors are ones I frequently see in court.
I can also think of a few judges who refer to my female clients as “lovely” or who otherwise comment about their physical appearance and characteristics. These types of comments, however well-intentioned, can make both the defendant themselves, along with others in the courtroom, feel uncomfortable and certainly do sully the professional atmosphere of a courtroom.
On the other hand, many judges engage on a personal level with the staff, attorneys, and defendants in their courtroom. This is not altogether uncommon, although it is certainly not the style of all judges. I wonder whether what happened in the case of Judge Rand will have a chilling effect on these more empathetic and engaging judges. When done in moderation and also when appropriate, interacting on a personal level can make an impact in people’s lives. A judge who takes the time to engage with the defendant on a personal level, perhaps giving him some advice or showing some empathy, may be able to make an impact on that person’s life which can be of immense benefit moving forward; I can think of a few judges whose caring and individualized approach makes a difference in people’s lives, even if it means their court docket may run more slowly.
In the end, Judge Rand chose to resign rather than fight it all the way. It appears the odds of success were not in his favor. What I wonder is how some of the allegations in this case may change courtrooms for defense attorneys, prosecutors, court personnel, and defendants moving forward.