21 December 2008

Is Nottingham Giving Up?

Former Chief U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham Jr. did not file a response to misconduct allegations that could put his law license in jeopardy.

Sean Harrington, a legal blogger who runs the website knowyourcourts.com, filed a misconduct complaint about the former judge with the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel and with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

From here.

(Harrington's website is more of a resource for activists interested in reforming courts and addressing alleged judicial and legal profession impropriety, than it is a traditional law blog, but Harrington is a regular commentor on pertinent issues at this blog and has worked hard to have a documentary and factual basis for offering Internet commentary on those issues.)

Judge Nottingham resigned from the 10th Circuit, rendering that matter moot. But, not responding to an inquiry from the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel is normally the sort of thing done only by lawyers who have abandoned their practices entirely. Failure to respond to a complaint itself can be considered as serious a matter as any underlying offense by the Regulation Counsel.

The far more typical response would be a letter vigorously disputing the claims made, or a defense at the very least directed towards mitigating any penalty supported by a raft of character witnesses. Often, this produces a very mild ultimate sentence such as a public reprimand, while sanctions in a case where an attorney fails to respond are often far more serious. This is particularly true in a case like his where the public allegations made against him, while embarassing, aren't terribly serious and there are no allegations that his professional output was impacted.

Nottingham would certainly have the financial means to hire a competent attorney to defend him (something he appears to have done already), the intelligence to assist in his defense effectively, and no shortage of people who would be eager to testify as character witnesses on his behalf. Nottingham is also has enough working age years ahead of him to make his law license quite economically valuable. Many medium and large sized Colorado law firms with leap at an opportunity to hire him.

Nottingham's reputation for strict attention to detail during his judicial career, and the fact that he is currently represented by counsel (according to the newspaper report) also makes it seem unlikely that he could have accidentally failed to respond in a timely manner if he was not truly depondent at his meteoric fall from high judicial office. One can imagine that a response might be considered futile if a 5th Amendment claim were contemplated or there was an informal agreement of prosecutors not to press charges if a law license was quietly surrendered, but those possibilities don't seem likely. One would normally, at least, make some response, even if it was to formally decide not to contest the charges or to request a delay in the handling of the matter, in that situation.

It is, of course, possible that the story is inaccurate in stating that there was no response, or that no response is due yet. Time will tell how this case resolves itself.


Anonymous said...

He didn't resign from the 10th Circuit. He never served on the 10th Circuit.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

IIRC, the complaint to the 10th Circuit was a judicial misconduct claim concerning his behavior while a District Court judge lodged there to invoke the general supervisory authority of the 10th Circuit over the District Court for the District of Colorado.

It could be that I am mistaken and that it was actually confronting his admission to the 10th Circuit bar, but that is not what I understood.

Anonymous said...

To corroborate, I first posted on this topic back on December 16. Feliza Cardona (Denver Post) picked up on the story the following day after visiting the site.

John Gleason won't reveal the status of the confidential proceedings to reporters or third parties, which means that the only other parties with [limited] knowledge of the proceedings are the complainant (me) and the respondent (Nottingham). In response to my inquiry, an employee with the Office of Attorney Deregulation Council confirmed that no response had been filed by Nottingham or his counsel. I have not followed up since that time.

A link to the proceedings is here.

Anonymous said...

What makes you think he has the money to raise a defense?

Based on the news reports, he was spending about $5,000 a month on hookers and other adult(erous) entertainment. As his financial disclosure statements reveal that he had no material source of income outside of his day job, and no savings to speak of, the only way that he could have maintained his lifestyle was to take bribes from attorneys and their clients.

Unless he is living on stored-up bribes, he might not have enough jack to keep going.

Mark Brennan said...

Judge Nottingham, despite his failed marriages, has more than enough money (thanks to his ranching family's large land holdings in what have become extremely valuable parts of Colorado) and friends in high places to mount a vigorous defense to the complaints against him. I suspect Andrew is correct in his surmise that Judge Nottingham's reluctance to answer the complaint is grounded in his reluctance to admit the truth of certain allegations. The complaisance OARC is showing in allowing him to defer his response is indicative of the extent to which they apply a double standard of justice according to the weight of one's position or friends. The former prosecutors turned 8th District judges who willfully convicted Tim Masters of a crime they almost certainly knew he did not commit were allowed to plea to a minimal "public censure", though their subversion of justice warranted dibarment. Any attorney without connections, and more inclined to represent the powerless, who committed such grievous sins would be burned at the stake by the Supreme Court's Inquisitors.

Anonymous said...

Mark, are you asserting here that Judge Nottingham has been lying on his Financial Disclosure Statements for the past five years?!

Mark Brennan said...

Dear Anonymous: I have no reason to believe that Judge Nottingham would lie in his financial disclosures, which I have not seen, or in any other such documents. I gather his financial disclosures portray him as impecunious? If so, that would certainly surprise me. Rather than suggesting that Judge Nottingham is mendacious, which I do not believe and would never assert, it would suggest that those who informed me in the past that his family made a lot of money by selling land for Avon/Beaver Creek were misinformed.

kay sieverding said...

I'm trying to get Nottingham criminally prosecuted for for Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, (18 USC § 242), Conspiracy to Deprive Rights Under Color of Law, (18 USC § 241), Extortion by a federal official (18 U.S.C. § 872), Witness Intimidation (18 USC § 1512), Witness Retaliation (18 USC § 1513), and/or Solicitation to commit a crime of violence. (18 USC § 373)

“But judicial immunity was not designed to insulate the judiciary from all aspects of public accountability. Judges are immune from section 1983 damages actions, but they are subject to criminal prosecutions as are other citizens.” O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 503 (1974). DENNIS v. SPARKS ET AL., 101 S. Ct. 183, 449 U.S. 24 (U.S. 11/17/1980)

“I have three United States Marshals here ready to put you in jail. And I am determined to do so, but reluctant to do so. So I’ll ask you one last time, will you withdraw these lawsuits voluntarily?” Nottingham (p. 26 transcript PACER D of CO 02-cv-1950 document 884)

On 9/02/05 Nottingham said: “You’re going to be allowed to make a presentation but its not the presentation that you probably had in mind because I’m not going to listen” See D of Colorado 02-cv-1950 transcript 9/02/05 document 884 p. 20

“So you’ll stay out of jail if all these cases are dismissed in time for me to vacate the hearing. Otherwise the next time you show up, you pack your toothbrush, because you are going to jail….Are the defendants suggesting that the plaintiff be jailed until she purges herself of her contempt? P. 6 …” you can’t weasel out of it.” P. 10. 2/14/06 transcript document 876 Judge Nottingham

“She knows that she is not to pursue those lawsuits. And for her to suggest that I told her to dismiss those lawsuits, and that does not cover her appeals from those lawsuits is silly…she might dismiss everything before those marshals get to her…once she’s in custody she will not get out of custody until those are actually dismissed…She was told in unequivocal terms to dismiss both those lawsuits …what has to happen is those lawsuits have to be dead, lifeless, and she is not to do anything to pursue them on appeal, motion for reconsideration, or anything else... she faces a real possibility of incarceration as she knows because it’s happened before” 9/22/06 transcript District of Colorado Judge Edward Nottingham 02-1950

Nottingham ordered me taken to him in Colorado. On 6/1/07 Nottingham said “don't we have to start over again on that and look at what she's done and see if what she's done is -- supports another finding of contempt? We need to start over on the contempt proceedings, figure out what it is she's done and when she's done it, and see if that supports any finding of contempt…she could face a jail sentence.” transcript 6/1/07 Nottingham 02-cv-1950.