The federal judges on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico voted against reappointing Magistrate Judge Carmen Garza, following an investigation into her behavior. The investigation was a result of four different misconduct complaints. As detailed in an order from the Tenth Circuit’s Judicial Council, the special committee appointed to do the investigation found Garza threatened to fire employees, made “derogatory and egregious” comments about them, and had “unpredictable and hypercritical outbursts.”
Before the committee was able to complete their investigation, the New Mexico judges voted not to extend Garza’s appointment. However, the committee interviewed a variety of folks who worked with Garza over her 16 years on the bench and found “reason to believe that she had engaged in sanctionable misconduct.”
Though Garza’s ouster from the bench prevented the committee from issuing their final report, they did make recommendations on how to fix the institutional problems that allowed the alleged problematic behavior to continue for so long.
As reported by Law.com:
“The Judiciary, including this circuit, has made progress in the area of workplace conduct, but it is clear that there is more work to do,” the order states.
The Judicial Council said a lack of awareness about what constitutes abusive conduct and fear of retaliation deterred employees from reporting Garza’s behavior.
The council said under the rules that govern misconduct proceedings, there would have been limitations on its ability to address concerns about retaliation. The council asked the Office of Judicial Integrity and the Judiciary’s Workplace Conduct Working Group to look into the issue.
It also said it will issue an order for further training for judges and staff in the Tenth Circuit about what constitutes a hostile work environment.
“The council believes this will make judges more mindful of their conduct and their colleagues’ conduct and give employees confidence in what behavior should be reported,” it said.
The order noted that trust must be built to have an effective reporting system and noted the “courage” of those who reported Garza’s behavior.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).