2nd investigation of federal judge launched after disabled parking violation

12:31 PM, Oct 22, 2007   |    comments
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Nottingham is the judge in the Joe Nacchio trial. Nacchio was the former CEO of Qwest.

The Court of Appeals began an investigation of Judge Nottingham in September following allegations of improper conduct involving strip clubs.

The most recent investigation began less than a month after the first investigation. It involves a grievance filed by a Denver attorney over Judge Nottingham's behavior after parking illegally in a disabled parking space.

The attorney who filed the grievance, Jeanne Elliott, was paralyzed in 1986 after being shot four times during a court hearing in the Arapahoe County Courthouse.

Elliott was representing the ex-wife of an Aurora police officer who shot Elliott because he was angry about an increase in his court-ordered child-support payments.

On September 15, Elliott says she was in her wheelchair on her way into a Walgreen's at Race and Colfax in Denver. She says she had to park on the street in her wheelchair-accessible van because all of the disabled parking spaces were taken. Elliott says she noticed one of the handicapped spaces was occupied by someone without the proper authentication for disabled parking. So, she pulled her wheelchair behind the SUV and waited for the owner to show up.

According to Elliott, the man who owned the SUV saw her behind his van, walked past her and got in his SUV without speaking with her.

"And then he put the car in reverse, because I could tell from back-up lights going on and I thought, 'Oh boy, he's going to back over me,'" said Elliott.

She says the driver actually backed up towards her while she was sitting in her wheelchair behind his SUV.

According to Elliott, the driver then got out of car and said, "Get of my way.'" Elliot, who filed a grievance with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, then says she told the driver he was parked illegally in a handicapped accessible parking space. That's when Elliot says the driver identified himself as Judge Edward Nottingham and showed her his identification. Elliot says Nottingham threatened to call the U.S. Marshal's office if she didn't move.

"I was offended about the U.S. Marshal threat," said Elliott. "Here he is parking illegally. He's a federal judge who is held to a higher ethical standard and he's threatening me."

Elliott didn't move. Judge Nottingham called 911.

In a written statement issued by his attorneys, Nottingham says he "regrets parking in a handicapped space in his haste to pick up a prescription at a local Walgreens, but respectfully disagrees with the remainder of Ms. Elliott's version of this incident."

In the 911 tape to Denver Police, Nottingham identified himself as Ed Nottingham and said he wanted a ticket, but he also wanted the woman parked behind him and blocking his access to move.

He asked for Denver police to respond. When they did, they got Elliott to move and issue Nottingham a $100 violation.

9NEWS contacted the Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People about the incident.

"It's not just a matter of inconveniencing someone by occupying that space for too long," said Randy Chapman. "It denies that person access to that particular service, opportunity or job. Access to disabled parking is a civil rights issue for people with disabilities. They've been given that right by law."

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has not made a decision on either of the two investigations of Judge Nottingham. Among its options, it could publicly or privately sanction him or encourage him to step down as Chief Judge.

It takes an Act of Congress to remove a federal judge. Their appointments by the President of the United States are for life. Currently, federal district court judges earn $165,000 a year. Judge Nottingham's salary as Chief Judge was not available.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is one of 13 federal courts that are the intermediate courts between federal district/trial courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. The Circuit Courts are based on geographical areas. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals represents Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah.

Elliott questions whether the ticket will affect Nottingham's ability to hear future disability cases. 

"That will most likely be decided when one of those cases is assigned to the judge and whether any attorneys on the case want him to recuse himself," said Chapman. 

Judge Nottingham's written statement also says: "Judge Nottingham acknowledges that it is important for all persons to comply with the ordinance in question and he has timely paid the $100 fine associated with the parking violation."

Judge Nottingham paid his $100 fine on the day 9NEWS began its investigation.

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