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Colorado judge resigning after censure for racial slur

Judge Natalie T. Chase used the N-word and declared that 'all lives matter' in separate conversations with Black employees, according to court officials.
/ Source: The Associated Press

DENVER — A Colorado judge will resign after being censured for repeatedly saying a racial slur in a conversation with a Black employee, expressing her views on racial justice while on the bench as well as using court employees to work on personal business.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued the censure for 18th Judicial District Judge Natalie T. Chase on Friday, endorsing the state judicial disciplinary commission’s conclusions that Chase undermined confidence in the judiciary and violated a rule against showing bias or prejudice based on race or ethnicity.

According to the court’s ruling, Chase, who is white, drove a former court clerk and a family court facilitator to and from a training in Pueblo in early 2020 and, on the way back, asked the facilitator, who is Black, why Black people can use the N-word but not white people and whether it was different in the word ended with an “er” or an “a.”

Chase, who works in Arapahoe County near Denver, used the full word a number of times. The facilitator, who could not leave the car or the conversation, later said each time was “like a stab through my heart,” but she did not feel free to express her anger and pain to the judge due to fear of retaliation, the ruling said.

The court noted that Chase agreed with the commission’s findings but said she did not intend any “racial animus.”

“You acknowledge that your use of the N-word does not promote public confidence in the judiciary and creates the appearance of impropriety. Although not directed at any person, saying the N-word has a significant negative effect on the public’s confidence in integrity of and respect for the judiciary,” the ruling said.

Chase’s lawyer did not immediately return a telephone call and an email seeking comment on Monday.

Also according to the ruling, Chase said while in her judicial robes and sitting on the bench during a break in February 2020 that she planned to boycott the Super Bowl because she did not approve of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a protest over police killings of Black people. The comment came while two or three other employees, two of them Black, were in court, according to the ruling.

Days after the death of George Floyd, one of two Black court employees in her courtroom asked her whether she had seen the protests in Denver and Chase gave her opinions regarding racial justice issues, which the ruling did not detail. When the employee tried to explain the Black Lives Matter movement, Chase said that she believes all lives matter and also that the conduct of police involved with Floyd should be investigated.

The commission also found that Chase used a non-racist, derogatory term when talking about a fellow female judge.

According to a December review by The Denver Post, public censures of judges in Colorado are rare, with only four judges publicly censured between 2010 and 2020. There are usually more than 400 judges on the bench at a given time.