The state’s Judicial Standards Commission has petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to remove Eddy County Magistrate Judge Henry Castañeda for sending and receiving emails that were “offensive, degrading, pornographic, racist and sexist.”
The commission, which is responsible for investigating complaints of judicial wrongdoing and suggesting remedies or punishment, filed its unanimous official position with the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Castañeda has been a magistrate judge in Carlsbad since he won election in 2003. He did not return messages left for him Wednesday.
Commission investigators say in their petition for permanent removal that Castañeda was misusing and abusing his official judicial email address and computer from his election until 2015, when a full investigation was launched into his email accounts.
The extent of Castañeda’s inappropriate email use was brought to light after a records request by another government employee.
That employee had been fired after being caught using a government email address to register for the website Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people looking for affairs. After the termination, the employee sought emails from 10 government employees, including Castañeda.
Castañeda’s email trail, while not involved in the Ashley Madison scandal, did contain controversial emails.
Administrative Office of the Courts Director Arthur Pepin filed an official complaint over several hundred emails that he felt violated judicial policies.
The complaint details more than 100 of these emails, including dozens of raunchy, racist and sexist cartoons and jokes, along with personal emails and political emails sent to friends from his official judge email address.
The complaint against him says that despite one-on-one training sessions and access to IT experts, Castañeda claimed he just didn’t know how to delete or block emails and would just forward them to his personal email.
Pepin testified that the evidence on Casteñeda’s computer showed an “inability to be fair and impartial and would undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary.”
Pepin said Castañeda made no effort to block the incoming emails, which were mostly from family members, or to email the senders to tell them to stop sending inappropriate emails.
The complaint led to an administrative trial at the Judicial Standards Commission, which resulted in the recommendation for removal.
The court will now collect documents from the investigation and a response from Castañeda before deciding whether he should be removed.
“These are very rare to have and to go this far” in the process, said Randall Roybal, the commission’s executive director. “Removals are the ultimate sanction.”