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Colorado judge goes MIA for six months, with pay

A Colorado judge has been on paid administrative leave for six months and elected officials, including state lawmakers, aren’t being told why.

Larimer County Judge Robert Rand vanished from the bench in early July, but court officials are stonewalling reporters and elected officials who want to know why citing personnel policies and confidentiality requirements, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

“Court officials refuse to explain Rand’s absence and have ordered their staff to ‘refrain from gossip, innuendo or discussion’ about him,” the paper reports.

It’s unclear even whether Rand is on paid leave voluntarily or not.

Rand is paid $123,000 per year. Court officials have been paying other judges to take over his caseload to the tune of $425 per day, the paper reported.

Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson emailed the area’s state legislators asking them to look into the matter, even though he admitted the county has no jurisdiction over local judges, who are paid from the state’s general fund.

“We believe this situation erodes confidence in government in general and our judiciary in particular,” he wrote in the email. “Even though county dollars are not involved here, like you, I am concerned about the wise use of all tax dollars. I believe the public deserves some type of an explanation for this very unusual occurrence. Further I believe you may want to consider your role and options in this situation.”

Speculation about the reasons for Rand’s paid leave may also spur the judge to file a defamation suit, the paper reported, citing emails between County Attorney Jeannine Haag and other county officials.

After the county spokeswoman pressed for details about Rand’s disappearance, saying the continued silence “is only going to tarnish the reputation” of the county, Haag replied with the rumor that Rand was considering legal action.

“I heard through the proverbial grapevine that a local law firm is on the cusp of filing a lawsuit on behalf of Judge Rand for defamation — based on the fact that he has been put on administrative leave, which has led to speculation about why and the concomitant besmirching of his reputation,” the Coloradoan quotes Haag as writing in her email.

The state director of court services told the paper that the “necessary” people are aware of the reasons for Rand’s disappearance.

“In the case of Judge Rand, please be assured that his leave and the reasons for it are known to the necessary parties, but we are not at liberty to discuss this matter further,” Sherry Stwalley wrote to lawmakers who want answers.

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