Memo alleges sexism and harassment by Colorado judiciary; was contract intended to keep accuser silent?

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The Colorado Supreme Court has planned an outside investigation after releasing an internal memo that highlights allegations of sex discrimination and harassment within the state judiciary.

The memo, written by a former human resources director, outlines allegations that a former female employee was prepared to make public if she was fired over questions about expense reimbursements without adequate documentation, according to Christopher Ryan, former state court administrator, who spoke with the Denver Post.

The Gazette also has coverage.

The former employee was Mindy Masias, chief of staff at the judicial department. Ryan told the Denver Post that Masias received a five-year contract worth $2.5 million for her company to provide judicial leadership training, allegedly to prevent her from making public her allegations. The deal was canceled after the Denver Post reported on it.

The Colorado Supreme Court told employees in an internal email that state resources would never be used “to silence a blackmailer.”

Allegations in the memo include:

• Masias was told to destroy a letter making anonymous allegations of sexism and harassment against a state supreme court chief justice, who is not named in the memo.

• After a law clerk at the court of appeals accused a judge of harassment, the clerk got a settlement deal to keep the judge “safe” during the state supreme court selection process.

• A judge rubbed his hairy chest against a female employee’s back.

• There is a pending complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding two justices.

• Masias recommended that a chief judge fire an employee for having sexual relationships with his staff. The judge responded that Masias “needed ‘to leave the courthouse and drive slowly out of town.’”

• There were no repercussions when a judge sent a pornographic video over judicial email.

• Data shows that female judiciary employees are promoted at a slower rate than male judiciary employees, and 73% of terminated judicial employees are women.

The Gazette obtained a tape of a secretly recorded meeting between Nancy Rice, then-chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, and Masias.

Rice said there is still “sexism out there,” and, “The only way to make the sexism go away, I’ve noticed, is to be the boss.”

“You don’t look the part,” Rice advised Masias. “You don’t look like the women partners on 17th Street.”

When Masias asked whether she should change her hair, Masias laughed nervously and said, “You ought to think about it. I mean, I’m not kidding. You need to do something to make yourself not be underestimated.”

Rice also told Masias that she should not be too helpful on clerical duties.

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