The District’s federal court named a new chief judge Thursday, one day after Richard W. Roberts retired, citing unspecified health issues that he said prevented him from continuing to serve.

The early retirement announcement coincided with the filing of a lawsuit by a Utah woman who accuses Roberts of sexually assaulting her decades ago when she was a 16-year-old witness in a murder trial Roberts was prosecuting. Roberts’s departure from the bench also followed the filing of a “misconduct complaint” March 7 by the Utah attorney general’s office, which investigated the woman’s allegations.

Roberts’s attorneys this week called the woman’s assertions “categorically false,” but said the judge did have an “intimate relationship” with the woman that was “entirely consensual” and occurred after the trial had ended.

The allegations against Roberts, 63, marred the retirement of a long-serving judge that would usually mark an occasion for ceremony and commemoration at the federal courthouse a few blocks from the Capitol. Roberts’s announcement came the same day that another jurist in the same building, Merrick Garland — chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — was nominated by President Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Court officials announced Thursday that U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell will take over next week as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Retiring chief judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. Distirct Court for the District of Columbia (Beverly Rezneck/U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia)

Howell, 59, was appointed to the court in December 2010 by Obama. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Columbia Law School, and served as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn before working as general counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

In the civil lawsuit filed in Utah federal court Wednesday, Terry Mitchell, now 51, says Roberts “intimidated, coerced and manipulated” her into having sex for weeks when she was an eyewitness in a murder case Roberts was prosecuting.

Roberts, then an unmarried 28-year-old, picked her up from home or the courthouse to take her to dinner and then to his hotel room before and during the trial, according to the lawsuit.

The Washington Post does not usually identify victims of sexual assault. Mitchell is identified by name in the lawsuit and, through her attorney, agreed to be named in this article.

Over the years, Mitchell and Roberts remained in occasional contact, both sides agree. According to the lawsuit, the woman says that more recent email exchanges with the judge triggered her memories of the alleged abuse and prompted her to contact the Utah attorney general’s office.

The state attorney general’s office concluded that her allegations were not “strong enough to support a criminal prosecution.” The then-teenager was old enough to consent to sexual relations under Utah laws from 1981, according to the attorney general’s office.

The report completed in 2015 said, however, that Roberts’s relationship with Mitchell raised ethical questions about his work as a federal prosecutor 35 years ago. Prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose any information that might help the defense.

The report, written by retired Utah judge Paul G. Cassell, recommended referring the findings to Congress and the Justice Department.

The attorney general’s office Thursday provided additional details about what happened next. Last fall, the office notified the Utah U.S. attorney’s office, which referred the matter to the Justice Department. In January, the office alerted Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The office did not try to interview Roberts or inform him about the investigation until late February.

“The evidence is so strong that initially the thought was, there’s really not the need,” said Utah Chief Criminal Deputy Spencer Austin in a reference to the possible ethical violations. “A decision was later made, let’s give him an opportunity to respond.”

Within 24 hours of receiving the letter, Roberts’s attorneys said they contacted the attorney general’s office to “arrange to provide relevant information in response to the allegations. We were disappointed to learn that the Utah Attorney General’s office had already referred its report to various institutions and individuals, denying Roberts any opportunity to respond,” according to a statement from lawyers Jason Weinstein and Brian Heberlig.

About a week later, on March 7, the office filed a “misconduct complaint” in a letter to Garland in his capacity as chief of the D.C. Circuit.

A Chaffetz committee aide said Thursday: “We are currently awaiting any action by the D.C. Circuit and the Judicial Conference. Obviously, Judge Roberts’s retirement means that there is no longer an option available to remove him from office.”

The most severe consequence of any disciplinary proceeding would be removal from the bench.

Judicial conduct rules state that consideration of a complaint is confidential, except for notification to complainants and the targeted judge when a case is closed or forwarded for further review. Austin said that the Utah attorney general’s office has not received any such notification to date.

Elizabeth E. “Betsy” Paret, executive of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, declined to comment on the handling or status of the Roberts proceeding.

In his letter to Obama on Wednesday, Roberts invoked a provision of a U.S. law that entitles federal judges with more than 10 years of service to receive their full salary for life. District Court judges are paid $203,100, according to the court’s administrative offices.

Judge Karen L. Henderson, who is acting chief judge in Garland’s absence, also certified in a separate letter that Roberts was “permanently disabled from performing his duties” and said a review of his medical report shows that he “suffers from a very serious health condition” and is “unable to perform his duties.” Garland recused himself from writing the letter, Paret said.