A Colorado District Judge has resigned after admitting to using a racial slur multiple times in front of court employees, including one who is Black. According to an order issued by the Colorado Supreme Court, the judge, Natalie Chase, not only voiced her opinion on racial issues from the bench but also asked employees to do personal tasks for her during working hours.
Multiple employees complained prompting an investigation into Chase’s actions by the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline. The order issued Friday publicly censured Chase and accepted her resignation. She “asked the (court employee) questions about why Black people can use the N-word but not white people, and whether it was different if the N-word is said with an ‘er’ or an ‘a’ at the end of the word,” the order said. “During the conversation, Judge Chase used the full N-word a number of times.”
The investigation found that this wasn’t the only time Chase made offensive comments in front of colleagues and court employees. According to CNN, days after the death of George Floyd, two Black court employees were talking about Black Lives Matter protests when Chase heard and used the slogan “all lives matter.”
“One of them asked the other if they had seen the George Floyd protests,” the order said. “Judge Chase then, while wearing her robe and sitting on the bench, told the employees some of her opinions regarding racial justice issues. Judge Chase asked one employee some questions about the Black Lives Matter movement.” According to the order after the employee attempted to explain what Black Lives Matter was, Chase still on the bench said, “she believes all lives matter.”
Months later, Chase made similar political comments to other employees including voicing her objection to athletes taking the knee during the National Anthem. She allegedly said she would boycott the Super Bowl because of the NFL players that were protesting police brutality. She was also in court and on the bench during this time.
But her use of offensive language and expressing her biased political opinions while at work were not the only issues. According to the order, Chase even asked employees to do personal tasks for her including rewriting personal, not work-related, emails “so they sounded better.” She also “repeatedly discussed personal and family matters” with staff and other employees “in a manner that was not dignified or courteous,” according to court documents. In one incident, she even declined to use an ambulance after a medical incident at the courthouse and instead instructed a court employee to drive her to the hospital and stay with her.
Chase did not dispute any of the incidents. Acknowledging her actions, Chase noted that she “undermined confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary by expressing [her] views about criminal justice, police brutality, race and racial bias, specifically while wearing [her] robe in court staff work areas and from the bench,” the order said. Additionally, it noted that while she acknowledged expressing her views were wrong and that her “use of the N-word does not promote public confidence in the judiciary and creates the appearance of impropriety,” she maintained she “did not intend any racial animus.”
According to a Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance review from 2016, Chase oversaw cases dealing with “divorce, post-divorce enforcement and modification, and child support matters.” She did not oversee racial or criminal matters. Appointed in 2014, her resignation is effective on May 31.
Public censure of a Colorado judge is extremely rare and has only happened four times between 2010 and 2020, the Denver Post reported. Outside of cases seen as “egregious” or those in which misconduct becomes public, Colorado’s state constitution bars the public from knowing which judges committed what offenses.