The incident was one of numerous claims of racist or unprofessional behavior raised against Chase, including another occasion where she used the n-word multiple times while talking to a Black colleague, court officials said.
On Friday, Chase agreed to resign after the Colorado Supreme Court censured her based on a report finding she had “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.”
Chase did not dispute any of the incidents. Her attorney had no comment.
Chase is the latest judge to resign or face disciplinary action in recent years after complaints of racist behavior in the courtroom. In February 2020, a Louisiana judge left her job after admitting to using the n-word multiple times in text messages to her lover. Last November, a Pennsylvania judge resigned following several misconduct charges, including calling a Black juror “Aunt Jemima” and speculating that she had a drug-dealing “baby daddy.” In March, a Washington judge said he would take time off after video surfaced showing him ridiculing a young Black man who was fatally shot by two sheriff’s deputies.
Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D) appointed Chase, who had owned a private firm focusing on family law, criminal law and estate planning, to Colorado’s 18th Judicial District Court in 2014. Chase mainly oversaw domestic relations cases.
In recent years, though, Chase has faced a number of complaints about her behavior in the courtroom and with her colleagues.
Early last year, Chase drove herself and a family court facilitator, who is a Black woman, to a conference in Pueblo, Colo., according to a report by Colorado’s Commission on Judicial Discipline.
During the ride, Chase asked the facilitator “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.” Chase repeatedly used the full n-word in the conversation.
Stunned, the facilitator said she felt uncomfortable because she was stuck in the car with Chase. She told court investigators that she was worried that if she spoke honestly, the judge could retaliate against her, adding that the conversation made her feel “angry and hurt” and that hearing the judge say the n-word was “like a stab through my heart each time.”
Then, during a court break in early February last year, Chase overheard two Black courtroom employees talking about the Super Bowl. As she sat on the bench in her robe, Chase said “she would be boycotting the Super Bowl because she objected to the NFL players who were kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against Black people,” according to court documents.
There were other allegations of misconduct against Chase, including assigning a law clerk early last year to do research unrelated to the judge’s caseload but rather for “personal family legal issues.” Several times last year, Chase also asked her clerk to proofread and rewrite her personal emails before sending them. After returning from a meeting with another judge last year, Chase told her clerk the judge was a “f------ b----,” court documents say.
The judge also “repeatedly discussed personal and family matters” with staff and other court employees during work hours and in work settings “in a manner that was not dignified or courteous,” according to court documents.
Last August, Chase 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, forcing the employee to miss half a day at work.
Colorado judges are rarely censured publicly, the Denver Post reported; in a review published last December, the newspaper found only four judges were publicly censured between 2010 and 2020.
On Friday, the Colorado Supreme Court found Chase’s use of the n-word, though not directed at anyone, “has a significant negative effect on the public’s confidence in integrity of and respect for the judiciary.” The commission also chastised her for failing to “act in a dignified and courteous manner” and for violating a rule that “prohibits a judge from manifesting bias or prejudice based on race or ethnicity by word or action.”
Chase apologized and expressed remorse for her actions, the court said. She officially resigns next month.