In a recent opinion piece published on Colorado Politics, former judge Dennis Maes sheds light on the controversy surrounding a prominent figure within the Colorado court system.

The article, titled “Slow Burn for Colorado Supreme Court Scandal,” highlighted a scandal that came to light in early 2021, referred to as the “pay for silence” controversy, causing significant apprehensions regarding the Colorado Supreme Court’s integrity, impartiality, and openness. The genesis of this scandal dates back to 2019, involving then-Chief Justice Ben Coats, who allegedly extended a $2.5 million contract proposal to a senior administrator. The proposal aimed to dissuade the administrator from pursuing a discrimination lawsuit, even though the administrator was under scrutiny for financial improprieties and the prospect of dismissal. Following public exposure, the offer was retracted. As per Maes, this revelation sent shockwaves through the Supreme Court, triggering investigations, including a legislative probe by the Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline. The committee advocated for reforms, among them the removal of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over matters of judicial misconduct.

According to Maes, Chief Justice Brian Boatright oversaw the initiation of two investigative reports, which were undertaken by the Supreme Court at an estimated expense of $300,000. These reports were aimed at examining allegations of misconduct, favoritism, instances of sexual harassment, and overall dissatisfaction prevalent within the judicial department. Maes emphasized that the court’s major transgression was refusing to allow the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline to conduct its independent investigation of judicial misconduct, opting to protect itself and control the narrative presented to the public.

During the process, the commission faced threats of eviction from their office, and the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel (OARC), answering to the Supreme Court, warned attorney members of potential disciplinary consequences for their public comments. OARC refused to fund the commission’s investigation, hindering their work.

Maes stated that Boatright and the Supreme Court showed reluctance to cooperate with reforms, impeding the gathering of evidence for potential criminal charges against Coats as the latter now faces public censure and investigation by the commission for his role in the scandal. Boatright’s decision not to reappoint Judge Prince, who had differing opinions, and appoint Judge Jill Brady instead, appeared retaliatory and disregarded the institutional history needed for implementing recommended changes to the judicial discipline process.

Maes also examined Chief Justice Boatright’s actions in light of his statements to the state legislature during his State of the judiciary speech on Feb. 18, 2021. In the said speech, Boatright emphasized the court’s commitment to addressing wrongdoing, stopping abuse of power, and changing deficient policies. He acknowledged the crisis of confidence in the leadership of the branch.

Following her criticism of the commission’s investigation methods, Judge Brady was appointed by Boatright. While Judge Brady has the right to express her opinions freely, Maes believes that it is important for her to disclose whether her views were influenced by personal experiences or prior conversations with Boatright.

Maes urges Chief Justice Boatright to reveal the selection process for Judge Brady, including opportunities for other applicants, as transparency is vital for building confidence in appointed officials, as recommended in the ILG report.

Maes states:

“In the interest of transparency, Chief Justice Boatright should disclose the process he followed in selecting Judge Brady including whether others were offered the opportunity to apply. Transparency in the process will support the recommendation at page 128 of the ILG report which provides, “To provide confidence that appointed officials and leadership at the Branch are held to the highest ethical and behavioral standards, an appropriate degree of transparency and accountability is imperative.”

Maes also noted that Boatright’s appointment of Judge Brady came at the expense of appointing a judge from a rural county, raising concerns about diversity in the Supreme Court’s appointments. Some have questioned whether Boatright’s decision to bypass Judge Prince is indicative of a shift within the commission that may hinder reform efforts.

Maes pointed out that the Supreme Court seems willing to let the scandal “suffer a slow burn,” suggesting a lack of urgency in addressing the matter.


Source: Colorado Politics