The Association of U S West Retirees



Federal judge expected to go
Nottingham mired in sex-related misconduct issues
By Sara Burnett
Rocky Mountain News
Friday, October 17, 2008

Chief U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham is expected to quit the federal bench amid a new sex-related scandal and a closed-door judicial misconduct hearing that didn't go well, sources said Thursday.

Nottingham could not be reached for comment, and the clerk of the U.S. District Court for Colorado said he had received no official letter of resignation.  "To my knowledge it does not exist," Clerk of Court Gregory Langham said.

Nottingham's attorney did not return a phone call.

But three sources with knowledge of Nottingham's plans, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the resignation is expected this week.

The judge called in sick Wednesday and Thursday, and 9News reported that a trial he has been presiding over will be assigned to a different judge when it resumes Monday.

Nottingham, 60, has been the subject of several judicial misconduct complaints filed with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the past year.  The most recent complaint became public Thursday in a 9News report.

A former prostitute said Nottingham asked her to lie to investigators and tell them he didn't pay her for sex, the station reported.  The woman, whom 9News did not identify, worked for the former escort service Bada Bing Denver.  She claimed Nottingham paid her $250 to $300 per hour for sex once a week between February 2003 and November 2004.  According to 9News, the woman filed her complaint in writing with the 10th Circuit last Friday.

The station said Nottingham had not responded to attempts to contact him.

The judge's troubles started in 2007, when his ex-wife went public with statements Nottingham made during their divorce proceedings.  The judge admitted he spent $3,000 over two days at the Diamond Cabaret, a Denver strip club, but said he was too drunk to remember much of it.  Nottingham later issued a statement saying he wouldn't discuss "private and personal matters involving human frailties and foibles."

Months later, a Denver woman who uses a wheelchair complained Nottingham parked illegally in a handicapped spot, then got angry with her when she confronted him.  In a tape recording of the 911 call the woman made at the time, Nottingham is heard calmly explaining he is in the wrong.  Officers issued him a $100 ticket, which he paid, Denver police said.

Most recently, 9News reported that Nottingham's name was among a list of clients seized in a federal investigation of Denver Players, a high-end prostitution ring.

Nottingham has not been charged with a crime.

In March, Chief Judge Robert Henry of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, issued an order stating he was looking into allegations that a U.S. district court judge "brought disrepute to the judiciary."  Henry did not name the judge, but Sean Harrington, the man who filed the complaint, confirmed to the Rocky it was Nottingham.

Henry's decision to proceed with an investigation was unusual.  Between fiscal years 2005 and 2007, fewer than half of the complaints filed nationwide moved forward, according to a report by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  Almost all those complaints were later dismissed.

Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments, paying roughly $165,000 per year.  Judges may be removed only by a trial of impeachment in the U.S. Senate.

If the 10th Circuit concluded that Nottingham had committed misconduct, it would have several options:  a public or private reprimand, a restricted caseload or a request that the judge voluntarily retire.

A source said Nottingham had a hearing before the panel investigating his case recently, and that the panel came down hard on him.

If Nottingham resigns, the normal outcome would be that all misconduct proceedings would terminate.

His departure would create a second vacancy on Colorado's short- handed federal bench, and come at a bad time for the court.  The Senate confirmed two new judges last month, after more than a year of disagreement between the state's two senators. A third vacancy was left unfilled.  With the presidential election weeks away, and a new president not taking office until January, it could be months before the vacancies could be filled.

Nottingham, an Eagle County native, was appointed to the federal bench in 1989.  He has presided over several high-profile trials, including that of ex-Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio.

The docket

Judge Nottingham's interesting past cases

In 2007, Nottingham presided over the trial of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, who was convicted on 19 counts of insider trading.  At sentencing, he called Nacchio's actions "crimes of overarching greed" and questioned why he ever came to Colorado.  Then he sentenced Nacchio to six years in prison, a $19 million fine and $52 million forfeiture.  The case is on appeal.

Also in 2007, Nottingham compared an attorney's arguments to putting lipstick on a pig -- and included a photo of a lipstick-wearing animal in his 27-page order.

In 2005, Nottingham ordered a Steamboat Springs woman thrown in jail because she wouldn't stop filing lawsuits he called "frivolous" and "gibberish."

In 2003, his office was flooded with angry phone calls after he ruled the popular federal "do not call" list violated telemarketers' free-speech rights.  An appeals court overturned the ruling.

Also in 2003, he questioned the U.S. military's use of a mandatory anthrax vaccine.  While Nottingham dismissed the case of a soldier dishonorably discharged for refusing the vaccine, he said her claims that it was unsafe were reason for concern.  "The military will be held accountable if it is using its own soldiers as guinea pigs," he said.