A former chief justice of Colorado’s Supreme Court and former administrator of the state’s judicial system, under whose watch many of the allegations of judicial misdeeds outlined in a tell-all memo would have occurred, say they’ll cooperate with any investigation into its contents.
In separate interviews Friday with The Denver Post, former Chief Justice Nancy Rice and former State Court Administrator Gerald “Jerry” Marroney each had different takes on the contents of the two-page, 27-point memo, with Rice confirming knowledge of one event and no recollection of others, while Marroney said he’ll wait to be questioned by an independent investigation.
“I think I’ll just wait for the investigators and talk to them about whatever they need,” Marroney said after reviewing the memo. “I agree that an independent investigation is definitely needed.”
Rice offered a two-word response in an email to The Post when asked if she’d cooperate with investigators: “Of course.” She said she recognized some of the incidents listed in the memo, but most of them she did not.
Former court administrator Christopher Ryan has said the memo was the reason behind a $2.5 million sole-source contract given to the department’s former chief of staff, Mindy Masias, in June 2019. She threatened the department with a sex-discrimination lawsuit – to include details of undisciplined misconduct by male judges and other high-ranking judicial male officials over the course of her 20-year career – if she were fired for financial irregularities. Masias was passed over for the $175,000-a-year administrator’s job when Marroney left, despite Marroney’s endorsement.
The contract was canceled amid a Denver Post investigation into the deal and Ryan resigned. Human resources director Eric Brown, the author of the memo according to Ryan, resigned shortly after.
Ryan said much of the conduct described in the memo was unfamiliar and likely preceded his time in the job. Marroney, a former district judge in Pueblo County, held the administrator’s job for 17 years.
Former Chief Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats, who retired Dec. 31, 2020, has not responded to questions from The Post about the memo, but his replacement, Chief Justice Brian Boatright has denied the contract was intended to silence Masias and has called for two investigations, one by State Auditor Dianne Ray and the other by an independent investigator hired by the court.
The memo describes, among other things, the destruction of evidence at the order of a chief justice, ignoring of allegations that two district judges, each later named chief of their judicial district, had circulated pornographic videos via the department’s email system, paying a Court of Appeals law clerk who accused a judge there of harassment, and a judge who bared his chest and rubbed it on the back of a female employee.
There are no dates or time frames given and only a couple of names are identified.
The normally secretive Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline on Friday took the unusual step to say it could find no record over the past five years that matched up with the allegations of the memo.
“The Commission has reviewed its records spanning the last 5 years and has not been able to identify a referral from the State Court Administrator’s Office or the office of the Chief Justice that appears to match the limited details reported publicly,” the commission said in a statement. “Going forward, we are committed to learning more about these allegations.”
Rice said she only recognized the allegation against the Court of Appeals judge, refusing to identify anyone or to say whether the assertions of harassment were founded or not.
“I am aware of the COA situation and as far as I know it was thoroughly investigated and resolved,” she said in an email to The Post. “I don’t feel comfortable speaking about this any further because to do so would involve sharing potentially confidential information.”
She said she didn’t recall the first assertion in the memo that a chief judge told Masias to destroy an anonymous complaint of harassment that allegedly occurred by the judge and someone in the organization’s technology department.
“I don’t know what she’s talking about,” Rice said in the email. “I don’t remember an anonymous complaint, although there might have been one.”
To the other allegations of misconduct, Rice said she didn’t recognize any of them.
“I am certain I know nothing of those situations,” she said of the pornographic videos. “I don’t know about the hairy chest situation.”
Regarding a list of eight other misdeeds associated to non-judicial officials, Rice also said she didn’t recognize them.
“I know nothing about those allegations,” she said.
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