2 New Mexico judges sue state judicial commission to obtain secret courthouse recordings

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Two magistrate court judges in Aztec, New Mexico, have sued the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission in an effort to obtain secret surveillance recordings allegedly made by a judge who has since been removed from the bench.

Magistrate court judges Trudy Reed-Chase and Barry Sharer contend in the lawsuit that they should have received the recordings when the commission’s ethics case against Judge Connie Lee Johnston ended with her removal in October, Courthouse News Service reports.

The suit says the recordings contain “intimate details of personal life, relationship details, family details, marriage details intimacy, autonomy, private debts, protected medical information and other personal details.”

Reed-Chase and Sharer had previously joined nine other court employees to file a civil suit against Johnston. The suit had claimed Johnston secretly bugged multiple locations in the Aztec Municipal Courthouse.

An initial complaint (PDF) by the Judicial Standards Commission had alleged that Johnston ordered the jailing of a court clerk who was in her court as a result of orders by Sharer, the presiding judge. Sharer had ordered two clerks to be present with Johnston in her courtroom because of rude behavior to court staff, according to the complaint.

The complaint also said Johnston sexually harassed Sharer after he told her court staff believed she was recording her conversations with them. “In response,” the complaint said, Johnston “lifted up her shirt revealing her undergarments to Presiding Judge Sharer and asked him if he wanted to pat her down.”

A revised complaint said Johnston had failed to be dignified and courteous in the alleged shirt-raising incident.

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