Colorado needs a special prosecutor to root out Judicial Department

Colorado’s new Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright, who heads the state’s Judicial Department, did the right thing this week by releasing a memo that details years of misconduct in the department that were swept under the rug by his predecessors.

The memo paints a picture of a broken system. Judges and other top officials in the department operated with impunity — which is rich coming from those we trust with doling out justice. The memo also details a good-old-boys culture in the department that extends beyond a few bad apples to taint those who covered up for them too.

The memo itself was secret for almost two years, until a former State Court Administrator Christopher Ryan blew the whistle to Denver Post reporter David Migoya. Migoya reported on Friday that at least two high-level lawyers in the Colorado Attorney General’s office also knew of the memo and its contents.

It’s time for an external investigation to be launched. The state needs to hire a special prosecutor who can operate outside of the influence of state government employees and whose job it is to ascertain the truth for the people of Colorado.

Really there are three separate issues in need of investigation.

First, there’s the question of whether any laws were broken in the effort to hide the information in the memo from the public. Ryan has said that a $2.5 million five-year contract was offered to the person threatening to make public the allegations in the memo through a sex-discrimination lawsuit. Mindy Masias had been the department’s chief of staff before she was fired over financial irregularities alleged to have occurred in her filings for reimbursement.

READ  The Man Behind Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut

But the memo prepared by the department’s former head of human resources says that Masias may have been wronged in that termination. It then goes on to detail the significant discrimination Masias faced as she attempted to move up the ladder in the Judicial Department. A kind interpretation of the contract to Masias is that former Supreme Court Justice Nathan B. Coats was trying to right a wrong, and was also bringing Masias in as an external party to clean house and train judges on appropriate professional behavior. An unkind interpretation, one supported by Ryan, is that Coats was offering a bribe to Masias to keep the Judicial Department from facing a scandal.

A special prosecutor must get to the bottom of that question.

Second, there’s the actual content of the memo, that must be investigated.

Some of it may have been buried so deep that it can no longer be investigated — the memo is short on details and names. But the memo does say that an “investigator” looked into Masias’ allegations and “couldn’t prove Mindy fabricated any document.” That investigation report and Masias’ documents would be a good place to start.

For example, it says an anonymous allegation of “sexism and harassment was made against the chief justice and Chad.” Masias was told to destroy the letter. Is it possible Masias still has that letter and was going to include it in her lawsuit?

Third, the memo paints a picture of an environment hostile to women and minorities. Masias attempted to create a diversity and inclusion committee but was told to stop because “we aren’t going to create an affirmative action plan.”

READ  Qualcomm Refused Modems For 2018 iPhone Models: Apple

Systemic culture change is needed throughout the department. Anything less at this point is unacceptable. The bad apples must go, and if the court won’t police its own, the public must be provided with names so they can vote for non-retention in the future.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

Updated Feb. 12, 2021 at 6:01 p.m. Due to an editor’s error, the original version of this story said that former State Court Administrator Christopher Ryan had created the memo. It was written by the former head of human resources.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.