Judge resigns after using racial epithet, opining that all lives matter

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A Colorado judge has accepted a public censure and agreed to resign after she acknowledged using the N-word in a conversation with court employees and offering her opinions on racial justice issues while wearing her robe.

Judge Natalie T. Chase of Arapahoe County, Colorado, is white, according to the April 16 order by the Colorado Supreme Court that imposed the public censure.

According to stipulated facts cited by the court, Chase used the full N-word a number of times when she asked two court employees why Black people can use the word but not white people. She also asked whether it was different if the N-word is said with an “er” or an “a” at the end.

Chase had the conversation while driving two court employees to a safe baby program in early 2020. One of the employees in the car was Black, and she felt angry and hurt by the conversation, according to the court’s order. The employee, a family court facilitator, said Chase’s use of the full N-word was “like a stab through my heart each time.” The employee didn’t feel free to express her discomfort or emotions.

Chase handles domestic relations cases in the 18th Judicial District, according to coverage by Colorado Politics. The court issued its order one day after justices approved mandatory diversity and inclusivity training for attorneys. The Denver Post also covered the order in a story that said public censure of Colorado judges “is extremely rare.”

Chase and the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline also stipulated that, in 2020, Chase took these actions:

• During a court break, while wearing her robe and on the bench, Chase stated that she would not be watching the Super Bowl because she objected to football players kneeling during the national anthem. Two Black employees were in the courtroom.

• On the morning after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Chase told employees some of her opinions on racial justice issues. Chase was on the bench wearing her robe at the time. Chase asked one employee some questions about the Black Lives Matter movement and stated that she thinks all lives matter. She did say, however, that the conduct of the police officers should be investigated.

• After returning from a meeting with another judge, Chase called the judge “a ‘f- - -ing b- - - -.’”

• Chase asked her law clerk to do some legal research related to a personal family legal issue and asked her clerk to edit or rewrite her personal emails before she sent them out.

• After a medical episode at the courthouse, Chase declined an ambulance and then asked a court employee to drive her to the hospital and to stay with her there. The employee missed a half day of work as a result.

• Chase discussed personal or family matters with court employees “in a manner that was not dignified or courteous.”

Chase maintained that she did not intend any racial animus, and her use of the N-word was not directed at any person. But she acknowledged violating ethics rules, including a rule requiring judges to act in a way that promotes public confidence in the judiciary and a rule banning judges from manifesting bias of prejudice.

Chase has expressed remorse and apologized for her conduct, the court’s order said.

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