What is it with judges hitting on litigants?
We recently reported on one such case in Denver. Now, in Douglas County, it appears that Douglas County Judge Grafton Biddle, age 57, was having a full fledged affair with a prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Laurie Steinman, age 29, who appeared before him. The Douglas County case involving Judge Biddle is much more serious because it potentially had an impact on more cases, and involved misbehavior by two people who both knew that they had an ethical obligation to stay at arms length.
Biddle resigned and Steinman was fired. Ethics charges are pending.
Biddle was appointed by Governor Owens effective July 1, 2006, after fourteen years as a county court magistrate and municipal judge. He was having sex with Steinman in his court chambers three days after his appointment took effect, and resigned on December 18 of that same year. Biddle’s fourth wife, Gail Liles is seeking a divorce and was the person who informed the Chief Judge of what had been widely known already in courthouse gossip.
County court, where Judge Biddle served, handles misdemeanors, petty offenses, traffic cases, and preliminary matters (like issuing search warrants) in felony cases. It also handles civil matters up to $15,000.
The County Court in Douglas County handled 3,213 misdemeanor cases in 2005, a load shared by two judges and one or two magistrates during the year prior to Judge Biddle’s appointment. This works out to about 4-5 misdemeanors per judicial official per day that court was in session. The two judges in office in 2005 shared 31 court trials in misdemeanor cases, and 45 jury trials in misdemeanor cases, and 11 court trials and 22 jury trials in traffic cass that year, on average about one trial involving the prosecutors office, per judge, per week.
Improper failures to disclose the relationship have been cited in ethics complaints in at least two cases involving the couple.