It may develop that Colorado Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, State Court Administrator Gerald Marroney and the department's legal counsel, Carol Haller will face a special prosecutor over obstruction of justice. The facts seem to justify that outcome.
The Rocky Mountain News is telling the public today that (News comments in red):
Colorado judicial authorities knew that a former district court judge [Larry Manzanares] was suspected of stealing a $1,600 state computer when they told police last month that they didn't want him prosecuted "at this time. . ."
Denver police approached officials from the state court administrator's office twice, on Feb. 16 and Feb. 20, to get them to go along with the prosecution of Manzanares.
The decision on the 20th to ask for no prosecution "at this time" had an immediate impact on the investigation.
The next day, a Denver deputy district attorney declined to file charges, citing the judicial officials' position.
For those of you who don't understand the fast one that the Supreme Court is trying to pull, we will spell it out.
The court administrator, Gerald Marroney, was trying to push the investigation away from police and toward the Commission on Judicial Discipline. That body is authorized by the Colorado Constitution to act in secret. It is has no law enforcement powers. It can only secretly "admonish" judges or recommend to the Supreme Court that they be removed. Since the judge had already resigned, the most serious punishment that the court administrator Gerald Marroney was proposing for this felony was an admonition of Larry Manzanares that would never be publicly published.
There is another facet to this obstruction of justice issue. Chief Justice Mullarkey also has established and controls the Office of Attorney Regulation. John Gleason operates Attorney Regulation as a "paperless office," that uniformly refuses to issue written documents to citizens who make complaints. Some suspect the real purpose is to ensure that Attorney Regulation leaves a minimumally auditable paper trail.
While John Gleason speaks publicly about how tough his office is on unethical lawyers, the paperless record is less clear. If former judge Larry Manzanares could avoid a felony conviction, Attorney Regulation could, conceivably, also issue an admonition. Attorney Regulation admonitions are usually not made public.
Rob McCallum, a spokesman for the state court administrator, said Thursday that another official, Colorado Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, "was clearly briefed on the issue, but she never gave any directives."
He said he did not know when the chief justice was briefed, though he noted, "Gerry Marroney's boss is the chief justice."
A failure by the Chief Justice to change the direction of the actions of her subordinates could be as much evidence as a jury would need to convict her of obstruction or accessory.
On Feb. 23, the Jefferson County special prosecutor took the laptop from the administrator's office.
When former judge Larry Manzanares is finally prosecuted, he is going to walk. The court administrator's office almost certainly broke the chain of custody on the one important piece of physical evidence needed to convict him. Was this incompetence or intent?
McCallum said all the state's actions were above board and not intended to protect a former judicial colleague.
"From the state court administrator's perspective, there would be no obstruction of justice with how we handled this," he said.
It appears that they are worried about being charged, and they should be, given that they were trying to reduce a felony penalty to a secret admonition. Their next argument will likely be that they were attempting to relieve prison over crowding. That one holds as much water as the one they are using.
Attorney General John Suthers needs to appoint an out of state special prosecutor since the Chief Justice is involved and she controls attorney licensing and discipline.
The special prosecutor needs to focus on the Chief Justice, the Court Administrator's staff, as well as the Commission on Judicial Discipline and its members. It is not beyond the realm of possibility, and indeed seems very likely that Commission on Judicial Discipline administrator Richard Rick Wehmhoefer would have been briefed on the issue and might have briefed the members.
This is likely to develop into a major judicial scandal in Colorado unless it is covered up. It will be interesting to see if the Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News give it any play, especially given their heavy promotion of the DA Carol Chambers show trial just before the election.