On Friday, May 24, 2024, Colorado Politics reported that documents revealed detailed allegations against former Arapahoe County District Court Judge John E. Scipione, who resigned last year and was censured earlier this month for misconduct towards staff and colleagues.

The Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline initiated multiple investigations against Scipione, beginning after two 18th Judicial District judges and a magistrate reported that Scipione had made inappropriate comments to his intern in 2021. The commission subsequently learned that Scipione had asked Denver’s probate judge for a “favor” in a personal case involving his father’s estate.

Further investigation uncovered an incident where Scipione’s law firm contacted his former clerk and asked her to testify as a character witness. The clerk felt “incredibly uncomfortable” because Scipione had allegedly tried to transform a personal meeting with her into a “date.” The commission filed additional misconduct charges against Scipione as a result of this revelation.

The commission also uncovered an undisclosed relationship Scipione had with a subordinate earlier in his time on the bench. Ultimately, the Colorado Supreme Court censured Scipione on May 6 based on a stipulation he signed admitting to certain violations of the judicial code of conduct and a general outline of his behavior, including using his position to pursue “intimate relationships” with staff and seeking favorable treatment in his father’s probate case.

The Supreme Court noted that the judicial branch had settled two claims by complaining witnesses arising from Scipione’s behavior for $130,000, illustrating “the severity of Scipione’s misconduct, his pattern of violations, and the harm he caused.” Scipione’s lawyer, John S. Gleason, stated that the settlements happened without his client’s involvement or knowledge.

The initial allegations against Scipione stemmed from a 2021 incident where a summer law student intern alleged that Scipione made her uncomfortable by commenting on her appearance, discussing his and his wife’s “swinger lifestyle,” and asking for her help with the dating app Tinder. The intern was advised by retired District Court Judge John L. Wheeler to report Scipione’s behavior, which led to Magistrate Amanda Bradley and District Court Judge Eric White also becoming aware of the concerns.

In response to the allegations, Scipione’s lawyer largely denied the specifics but acknowledged that Scipione had discussed his “lifestyle” with the intern. Scipione also admitted to contacting the Denver Probate Court judge about his father’s estate, though he disputed that it amounted to a code of conduct violation.

The Supreme Court subsequently appointed three special masters to handle the case, but before a scheduled hearing, Scipione signed a proposed stipulation agreeing to public censure and large portions of the allegations against him. However, new allegations then emerged from Scipione’s former law clerk, who alleged that Scipione had tried to transform a personal meeting into a “date” and that his wife had given him “permission to date” the clerk.

The commission then uncovered additional “courthouse rumors” that Scipione had a sexual relationship with a judicial assistant from 2013-2014 when he was a magistrate, which he had failed to disclose as required by judicial policy. The Supreme Court suspended Scipione with pay in August 2022 and later consolidated both pending disciplinary cases.

In response to the ballooning allegations, Scipione asserted he had a medical or mental health condition preventing him from assisting in his defense, which automatically paused the disciplinary proceedings. However, court-appointed experts concluded that Scipione was able to participate in his defense, and the disciplinary proceedings resumed in December 2022.

Ultimately, Scipione agreed to resign immediately and receive a censure, which he did on January 19, 2023. The case continued over the costs Scipione would owe for the disciplinary proceedings, with the judicial discipline commission arguing that the $130,000 in settlements and a $45,000 civil rights claim settlement highlighted the “severity of Judge Scipione’s misconduct and the damage that this misconduct has done.”

In an August 2023 order, the special masters rejected the commission’s request for Scipione to reimburse the full $120,719 in costs, but agreed he should pay back $51,189 in attorney fees for the disciplinary portion. The special masters noted a “pattern that shows Judge Scipione abused his power for self-gain,” ranging from “sexual or romantic to family business and whatever pleasure is taken from speaking ill of others.”

The Supreme Court adopted the special masters’ recommendation in its May 6 censure of Scipione.

 

 

Source: Colorado Politics