On Thursday, May 4, 2023, the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline released its statement regarding the stipulation recommending that former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats be publicly censured for his failure to perform judicial and administrative duties competently and diligently.

The request for public censure is for Coats’ involvement in a contentious $2.75 million contract awarded in 2019 to Mindy Masias, the then chief of staff to the Colorado Judicial Department.

In a statement, Chris Ryan, state court administrator at the time, said that the contract was awarded to Masias as a means to silence her regarding the misconduct of judges. However, an impartial investigation discovered that although the contract was riddled with unethical conduct, misconduct, and falsehoods, its primary intention was not specifically to deter Masias from disclosing incriminating information.

Coat’s award of the contract represents an extraordinary criticism of Coats as Colorado’s highest-ranking judicial official. Such action failed to conform with the requirements of Canon Rule 2.5(A) of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct.

As per the Colorado Rules of Judicial Conduct, a public censure is deemed suitable when the conduct of a judge or justice in question entails a significant violation of the established standards of judicial behavior.

Given the circumstances, the entire Colorado Supreme Court recused itself from hearing the case and instead directed the appointment of a Special Tribunal comprising judges from the Colorado Court of Appeals. This Special Tribunal will be responsible for reviewing the stipulation between the parties and either affirming or denying the Commission’s recommendation.

The court filings related to this matter can be accessed by the public through the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The timeline for the Special Tribunal to take action will be determined in the following days.

The Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline expressed its gratitude to its appointed special counsel, Omeed M. Azmoudeh and Qusair Mohamedbhai, for their dedication and efforts in handling this challenging and unprecedented assignment.

An attorney for Coats said the former justice does not wish to comment on the agreement.

Mr. Nathan Coats earned a law degree from the University of Colorado, graduating in 1977. Coats is the former Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. The judge served on the court until his retirement on December 31, 2020. Coats’ info can be found on Ballotpedia.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.