Judge Blabs About Affair With Lawyer, Then Quits
Posted Jan 10, 2008 2:44 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Guests got an earful last month at a holiday party hosted by a municipal judge for a town in Washington state, and the comments are still reverberating. Judge Colleen Hartl, 46 and married to another lawyer, reportedly told those assembled—including five court employees—that she was having an affair with a public defender who regularly appeared before her in Federal Way's municipal court.
Then, to prove her case, she showed off a text message from the public defender, Sean Cecil, which said that she looked good in tight jeans, according to the Associated Press.
The court's presiding judge, Michael Morgan, reportedly attended the Friday night party, which apparently was held Dec. 14, but left before Hartl's revelations. However, he heard about them at lunchtime the following Monday, Dec. 17. By that time, Hartl also had returned to work and presided over several more cases in which Cecil appeared before her, the news agency reports.
Hartl resigned Dec. 19 from her more than $127,000-a-year job as a jurist; a statement issued by the city says she did so for personal and health reasons, according to the News-Tribune, a Tacoma, Wash. newspaper. Meanwhile, Morgan issued an order yesterday that bars Cecil from representing indigent defendants and has made a complaint to state bar authorities, the Associated Press article says.
Hartl could not be reached for comment. However, she told Morgan that she had exaggerated her relationship with Cecil in her comments at the party and had in fact never slept with him, although she said she had gone out on a date with him, the presiding judge tells AP.
Cecil, who was admitted to practice in 2006 and regularly handled misdemeanor cases in the municipal court, declined to comment. He works for the law firm of Geiersbach and Kraft in Federal Way, which has a contract to represent indigent defendants. He is a 2005 graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., according to the Federal Way News. Its online article includes separate photos of him and Hartl.
"Obviously, I was astonished. I had absolutely no idea there was any sort of relationship," Morgan tells AP. "It's sad. She's lived here a long time, and I know how badly she wanted the job."