A federal judicial council on Monday admonished U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia for the sexual harassment of women who work for him, an extramarital affair with a convicted felon, and habitual tardiness.
The report follows an investigation by a special committee that included interviews with 23 people and testimony by Murguia, who admitted he violated the judicial code of conduct.
Timothy M. Tymkovich, chief judge of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, authored the public admonishment, which is the most severe form punishment available to the council.
Murguia was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999 to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.
The report says Murguia gave preferential treatment and unwanted attention to female employees, including sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate text messages and excessive non-work-related contact. Much of the inappropriate behavior happened after work hours and often late at night.
"All of the harassed employees stated that they were reluctant to tell Judge Murguia to cease his behavior because of the power he held as a federal judge," Tymkovich said in his report. "One of the employees eventually told him explicitly to stop his harassing conduct, but he continued."
Murguia's yearslong sexual relationship with a drug user who was on probation and is now incarcerated is concerning, the report concluded, because it gives the appearance of impropriety. The special committee also concluded the relationship placed Murguia in a compromising position in which he was susceptible to extortion.
For years, the report said, Murguia has been habitually late for court proceedings. His behavior didn't improve with counseling on the matter.
"A repeated cause of this tardiness was Judge Murguia’s regularly scheduled lunchtime basketball games on days when he had hearings or trials, leaving the jury and others waiting for him to return," Tymkovich said.
Murguia admitted to the misconduct and assured the judicial council he would change his behavior. The special committee tasked with the investigation wasn't convinced, saying he was "less than candid" during the inquiry.
"He tended to admit to allegations only when confronted with supporting documentary evidence," Tymkovich said. "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."
Murguia's misconduct, the report concluded, calls for "transparency and a powerful disincentive" despite embarrassment to the judiciary.
Last year, Murguia's wife, Ann Brandau-Murguia, was arrested in connection with domestic battery after a confrontation with a friend. She was a member of the Kansas Board of Regents at the time.
The judge's name surfaced last year during the questioning of a witness in a trial between the American Civil Liberties Union and Kris Kobach, who was secretary of state at the time. An ACLU attorney grilled the witness on what would constitute a foreign-sounding name, using Murguia — the district's first Hispanic judge — as an example. The witness didn't realize Murguia was a judge.