A former Mesa County District Court judge was publicly censured Monday over drunken sexual advances he made toward an attorney during a Colorado Bar Association conference in what is the first use of the Colorado Supreme Court’s new system for disciplining judges.
Lance P. Timbreza resigned his position as a judge in September after he was suspended with pay in June while the disciplinary investigation was ongoing. His inappropriate behavior occurred during the conference in June 2022, according to the public censure.
Timbreza was drinking alcohol with several other conference attendees and made sexual advances toward a young attorney, according to the censure. The attorney did not welcome the attention, which included the judge showing him a pornographic image and kissing him.
The attorney, identified only as “Attorney 1” in the censure, appeared uncomfortable with Timbreza’s advances, witnesses said. The man did not explicitly tell Timbreza to stop, and Timbreza, who was visibly intoxicated, believed his advances were welcome. The censure notes that the attorney was “younger and less experienced” than the judge, and “made best efforts to politely decline” the judge’s overtures “instead of forcefully rejecting them.”
The two men ended up in the attorney’s hotel room, according to the censure.
“What happened next is unclear,” the censure reads. “Attorney 1 has been emotional when discussing this case and has been unwilling or unable to disclose what happened in the hotel room. [Former] Judge Timbreza claims that he laid in bed with Attorney 1 and fell asleep for approximately four hours before leaving early the next morning.”
In addition to the public reprimand, Timbreza was also ordered to pay the state just over $20,000 in attorney fees. The ex-judge was previously disciplined in 2019 after he was arrested for drunk driving. He was appointed to the bench in 2016 by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Timbreza’s attorney, Nancy Cohen, declined to comment on the censure Tuesday and Timbreza did not immediately return a request for comment.
The judge’s public censure is the first time a Colorado judge has been disciplined through a new disciplinary process created by the Colorado Supreme Court earlier this year.
Amid an ongoing reform effort led by lawmakers, the Colorado Supreme Court on its own implemented voluntary changes to the judicial discipline process in January. The new rules allow for a special tribunal of Colorado Court of Appeals judges to handle any complaints of professional misconduct against a Supreme Court justice, or against any judge when the justices recuse themselves from the disciplinary proceedings.
All of the state supreme court justices recused themselves from Timbreza’s discipline case, and a special tribunal was convened for the first time.
The justices did not specify why they recused from the case. The new discipline rules offer a variety of circumstances in which the Supreme Court would recuse, including: when a justice makes a complaint against someone else or is a witness in a disciplinary proceeding, when a justice’s family or staff member is involved, or when two or more justices have recused themselves from a case.
Disciplinary records show a tribunal of seven Court of Appeals judges authored the censure against Timbreza.
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