As ex-judge awaits sentencing, some question whether their cases were tainted

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Ryan Kamada, a former Colorado judge, has been disbarred from law practice and convicted of obstructing a federal investigation, leading some to question whether their cases were affected by the judge’s behavior.

Kamada is awaiting a December sentencing for warning a friend to stay away from a suspected drug trafficker after an officer called Kamada’s courtroom in Greeley, Colorado, to seek a warrant, the Denver Post reports. The friend warned the drug trafficker of the investigation.

Kamada was also disbarred in August. Disciplinary records allege that he sent texts to his friends that disparaged litigants and disclosed their personal information, according to the Denver Post and the Greeley Tribune. The misconduct occurred first as a county magistrate and then as a district court judge—a post to which he was appointed in January 2019.

The Denver Post and the Greeley Tribune highlighted these allegations in the disciplinary case:

• Kamada texted a photo of divorce papers in a group chat. Kamada allegedly wrote he was “going to grant this today so she is free game tomorrow night.”

• Kamada discussed a pending dependency and neglect case, disclosing information about the family and the fact that the mother had overdosed.

• Kamada talked about a former client by name in a group text.

“I did her custody [expletive], and she is one strange cat,” Kamada allegedly wrote. “If that kid lives, I’ll be shocked.”

• Kamada sent a photo of a father and child to his friends. “Check out the dad in my trial today,” he allegedly wrote.

• Kamada looked up information on a criminal defendant for a friend. Kamada allegedly texted that the defendant “wasn’t convicted of the sex assault, but he was on other charges and ended up in [expletive] prison man … Oh yeah. He was [expletive] a 14-year-old and giving her cocaine. Don’t say anything man.”

Lawyer John Gleason represented Kamada in the ethics case.

“Everything I’ve heard about him is that he was a great lawyer and great judge who simply made a mistake, and he’s paid dearly for it,” Gleason told the Denver Post.

One person raising concerns about Kamada’s rulings is Amanda Harmon, who said she knew that something was amiss with Kamada’s courtroom demeanor when she appeared before him.

“All of these decisions are fruit of a poisoned tree,” she told the Denver Post.

Appeals by litigants based on Kamada’s legal troubles have not succeeded, however.

“It seems like the courts are trying to sweep it under the rug,” Harmon said.

Eli Wald, a law professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, told the Denver Post that disbarment or removal of a judge from the bench is not, by itself, reason to relitigate every case before a judge.

That shouldn’t happen unless something “causes us to doubt the integrity of the proceedings,” he said.

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