Judge Nottingham quits amid inquiry
He faced possible impeachment in misconduct case
By Berny Morson
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham resigned Tuesday
amid an investigation of charges that he asked a prostitute to
lie about their relationship.
Nottingham, 60, the
court's chief judge, said he's "deeply remorseful for his
actions," in a prepared statement released by his attorney.
The Tenth Circuit Judicial Council launched an investigation
into multiple complaints of misconduct against
last year, Chief Judge Robert H. Henry of the 10th Circuit Court
said in a statement released Tuesday. Henry said the
investigation included two closed-door hearings and review of
Last year, Nottingham's ex-wife revealed that during their
divorce proceedings he admitted to spending $3,000 over two days
at the Diamond Cabaret, a Denver strip club, and
said he was too drunk to recall what he spent the money on.
Last week, 9News broadcast an interview with a woman, identified
as a prostitute, who said that Nottingham
had told her to lie to investigators about their relationship.
The woman, who has not been named, alleged that
paid her $250 to $300 for sex from February 2003 to November
In another incident, a woman who uses a wheelchair claimed that Nottingham parked illegally in a handicapped parking space
and refused to move.
Nottingham hadn't been in court since last
week, when rumors began circulating of the allegations involving
the prostitute. He had few choices but to resign or face
possible impeachment proceedings.
Under the U.S. Constitution, federal judges are appointed for
life and can be removed only by Congress through impeachment.
"It takes a long time, but it is extraordinarily embarrassing,"
University of Colorado Law School professor Richard Collins
The resignation means that Nottingham
gives up retirement benefits five years before he would have
become eligible. Federal law provides for judges at least
65 years of age to go on "senior status," a form of retirement
that allows them to retain full salary and even hear some cases,
"I don't think there is any way for him to get a pension,"
Nottingham's attorney did not return a phone
U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel, 62, who has been on the
federal court bench since 1995, will take over as chief judge,
taking on administrative duties regarding the operation of the
Nottingham's pending cases will be distributed
among other judges. Cases already decided in his court,
such as the insider-trading conviction of former Qwest CEO Joe
Nacchio, which is now pending appeal, are not affected by the
Whether Nottingham's legal problems are over with regard to the
alleged prostitute is unclear because the exact charges and
evidence are not known, Denver attorney Scott
Further investigation of possible obstruction of justice charges
for conspiring with the prostitute would be passed to the U.S. attorney, Robinson said.
U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who last week called upon Nottingham to
resign, issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "On the bench, Chief
Judge Edward Nottingham was one of the most skillful lawyers and
jurists I have known. I am saddened by the allegations,
and it is right that he resign. He has done what is in the
best interest of the United States District Court for Colorado."
Robinson, who tried cases before Nottingham,
said he was "a great umpire" in the courtroom but sometimes
"went overboard" in his treatment of attorneys who incurred his
wrath. He said Nottingham is the first federal judge in Denver to step down because of allegations of
Criminal defense attorney Harvey Steinberg, who frequently
practiced before Nottingham, called him "one of the best, if not the best,
judges that I've ever appeared in front of. He was very
smart and he was not afraid to take the government to task if it
But, Steinberg said, "He had a temper."
Nottingham blew up "because people came in
there and they were ill prepared or they had screwed up . . . He
suffered no fools," Steinberg said.
"When I saw him lose his temper and yell at somebody, it was
well deserved," he said.
morsonb@RockyMountainNews.com or 303 954-5209
* Age: 60
* From: Family ranched on Eagle County land
that is now part of Beaver Creek resort before they moved to
Grand Junction, where Nottingham graduated from high school.
* Education: Cornell
University, 1969; University of Colorado
School of Law, 1972.
* Legal career:
Law clerk, U.S.
District Court for the District of Colorado.
* 1973-76, 1978-87: Private practice, Denver
* 1976-78: Assistant U.S. attorney, District of Colorado.
* 1987-89: Private practice, Grand Junction.
* 1989: Nominated for federal judgeship by
President George H.W. Bush.
Statement issued Tuesday by attorneys on behalf of Judge
In a letter to President Bush today (Tuesday), Judge Nottingham
has resigned his commission as a United States District Judge
for the District of Colorado.
He has done so because it is in the best interest of all
concerned. It is in the public interest and the interest of the
federal judiciary because it will terminate his judgeship and
begin to restore public confidence in an institution which he
profoundly respects. He is deeply remorseful for his actions. He
is also embarrassed and ashamed for any loss of confidence
caused by those actions and attendant publicity and sincerely
apologizes to the public and the judiciary.
Judge Nottingham also believes that the resignation is necessary
for him to begin taking the necessary steps to put this matter
behind him. Therefore, beyond this statement, neither he nor any
of his representatives will have further public comment.
October 21, 2008