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Judge Nottingham quits amid inquiry
He faced possible impeachment in misconduct case
By Berny Morson
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham resigned Tuesday amid an investigation of charges that he asked a prostitute to lie about their relationship.

Nottingham, 60, the Denver court's chief judge, said he's "deeply remorseful for his actions," in a prepared statement released by his attorney.

The Tenth Circuit Judicial Council launched an investigation into multiple complaints of misconduct against Nottingham last year, Chief Judge Robert H. Henry of the 10th Circuit Court said in a statement released Tuesday.  Henry said the investigation included two closed-door hearings and review of "voluminous documentation."

Last year, Nottingham's ex-wife revealed that during their divorce proceedings he admitted to spending $3,000 over two days at the Diamond Cabaret, a Denver strip club, and said he was too drunk to recall what he spent the money on.

Last week, 9News broadcast an interview with a woman, identified as a prostitute, who said that Nottingham had told her to lie to investigators about their relationship.

The woman, who has not been named, alleged that Nottingham paid her $250 to $300 for sex from February 2003 to November 2004.

In another incident, a woman who uses a wheelchair claimed that Nottingham parked illegally in a handicapped parking space and refused to move.

Nottingham hadn't been in court since last week, when rumors began circulating of the allegations involving the prostitute.  He had few choices but to resign or face possible impeachment proceedings.

Under the U.S. Constitution, federal judges are appointed for life and can be removed only by Congress through impeachment.

"It takes a long time, but it is extraordinarily embarrassing," University of Colorado Law School professor Richard Collins said.

The resignation means that Nottingham gives up retirement benefits five years before he would have become eligible.  Federal law provides for judges at least 65 years of age to go on "senior status," a form of retirement that allows them to retain full salary and even hear some cases, Collins said.

"I don't think there is any way for him to get a pension," Collins said.

Nottingham's attorney did not return a phone call.

U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel, 62, who has been on the federal court bench since 1995, will take over as chief judge, taking on administrative duties regarding the operation of the court.

Nottingham's pending cases will be distributed among other judges.  Cases already decided in his court, such as the insider-trading conviction of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, which is now pending appeal, are not affected by the judge's departure.

Whether Nottingham's legal problems are over with regard to the alleged prostitute is unclear because the exact charges and evidence are not known, Denver attorney Scott Robinson said.

Further investigation of possible obstruction of justice charges for conspiring with the prostitute would be passed to the U.S. attorney, Robinson said.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who last week called upon Nottingham to resign, issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "On the bench, Chief Judge Edward Nottingham was one of the most skillful lawyers and jurists I have known.  I am saddened by the allegations, and it is right that he resign.  He has done what is in the best interest of the United States District Court for Colorado."

Robinson, who tried cases before Nottingham, said he was "a great umpire" in the courtroom but sometimes "went overboard" in his treatment of attorneys who incurred his wrath.  He said Nottingham is the first federal judge in Denver to step down because of allegations of misconduct.

Criminal defense attorney Harvey Steinberg, who frequently practiced before Nottingham, called him "one of the best, if not the best, judges that I've ever appeared in front of.  He was very smart and he was not afraid to take the government to task if it was appropriate."

But, Steinberg said, "He had a temper."

Nottingham blew up "because people came in there and they were ill prepared or they had screwed up . . . He suffered no fools," Steinberg said.

"When I saw him lose his temper and yell at somebody, it was well deserved," he said.

morsonb@RockyMountainNews.com or 303 954-5209

His background

*  Age:  60

From:  Family ranched on Eagle County land that is now part of Beaver Creek resort before they moved to Grand Junction, where Nottingham graduated from high school.

Education:  Cornell University, 1969; University of Colorado School of Law, 1972.

Legal career:

1972-73:  Law clerk, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

1973-76, 1978-87:  Private practice, Denver

1976-78:  Assistant U.S. attorney, District of Colorado.

1987-89:  Private practice, Grand Junction.

1989:  Nominated for federal judgeship by President George H.W. Bush.

'Deeply remorseful'

Statement issued Tuesday by attorneys on behalf of Judge Edward Nottingham:

In a letter to President Bush today (Tuesday), Judge Nottingham has resigned his commission as a United States District Judge for the District of Colorado.

He has done so because it is in the best interest of all concerned. It is in the public interest and the interest of the federal judiciary because it will terminate his judgeship and begin to restore public confidence in an institution which he profoundly respects. He is deeply remorseful for his actions. He is also embarrassed and ashamed for any loss of confidence caused by those actions and attendant publicity and sincerely apologizes to the public and the judiciary.

Judge Nottingham also believes that the resignation is necessary for him to begin taking the necessary steps to put this matter behind him. Therefore, beyond this statement, neither he nor any of his representatives will have further public comment.

October 21, 2008

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/oct/22/judge-nottingham-quits-amid-inquiry/