Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Colorado District Judge Natalie T. Chase reportedly asked two Black court employees to “explain” the Black Lives Matter Movement to her. She did this while cloaked and seated at her bench in the court. Upon hearing the explanation, she maintained that, in fact, “all lives matter.”
According to Jaclyn Peiser of The Washington Post, “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.”
Following repeated racist allegations filed against her, Peiser reported on April 16 that 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 got her start in law at a private firm that focused on family law, criminal law and estate planning and primarily presided over cases involving domestic relationships. Prior to her resignation, she faced a number of damning complaints concerning her behavior in and out of the court, including an incident in early 2020, when Chase drove herself and a family court facilitator, a Black woman, to a nearby conference. “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,’” Peiser reported. “Chase repeatedly used the full n-word in the conversation.”
The stunned facilitator later told court officials she felt incredibly uncomfortable being stuck in the car with Chase and that she was worried the judge could retaliate against her if she made the conversation public. She added 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.”
In another instance, while seated at her bench during a court break, Chase overheard two Black courtroom employees discussing the upcoming Super Bowl. Interjecting herself into the conversation, Chase reportedly 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.”
Chase also allegedly asked a law clerk assigned under her to research personal family legal issues to proofread and rewrite Chase’s personal emails before she would send them — one of which allegedly called a fellow judge a “f—— b—-.”
The Denver Post has reported that public censure of judges in the state of Colorado is incredibly rare, occurring just four times in the last decade.
“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 the integrity of and respect for the judiciary,’” Peiser reported. “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.’”
As she resigned, Chase did not dispute the veracity of any of the incidents she had been charged with. According to court documents, she simply apologized and “expressed remorse” for her actions.
Unfortunately, Peiser also added that Chase is the latest in a recent string of judges to resign or face disciplinary action in recent years following 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,” Peiser reported. “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.’ [And] 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.”