Judge, Jury, Executioner, and . . . “Victim?”: Biased CU Hearing Officer Withdraws Under Pressure From FIRE

Carlos Martinez was a successful student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, only months from graduation, until he made the mistake of yelling at the wrong people in the Office of the Bursar. He was placed on probation and ordered both to write a letter of apology and to attend an anger management class. Carlos balked at signing a letter with language mandated by the Office of Judicial Affairs. Andrea Goldblum, the head of the OJA, summarily expelled Carlos without a hearing. Carlos, the single father of a young child, was given 48 hours to vacate his on-campus housing.

Acting as his own lawyer, Carlos was able to obtain a preliminary injunction from Judge Daniel C. Hale of the Colorado District Court vacating the school’s expulsion order and declaring that Carlos had a reasonable probability of succeeding on his claim that CU’s disciplinary policy is unconstitutional. What had started as a mild sanction — probation with a letter of apology and an anger management class – was now presented by Andrea Goldblum, in her testimony during the hearing, as “the worst case of student conduct I’ve ever seen.”

Suddenly, Ms. Goldblum herself became a complaining witness who claimed that she was so afraid of Carlos that she needed a court order prohibiting him from contacting her. That changed, however, when she wrote to Carlos Martinez announcing that she would be presiding over his new disciplinary hearing. Incredibly, CU’s attorneys went back to court to request that Judge Hale vacate his earlier order prohibiting Carlos Martinez from contacting Andrea Goldblum so that she could preside over his university trial.

CU officials ignored Carlos Martinez’s multiple requests that Ms. Goldblum withdraw from participation in his case on the grounds that she was biased. FIRE wrote a letter to CU officials, with a copy to Judge Hale, pointing out the clear conflict of interest inherent in Ms. Goldblum presiding over Carlos’ disciplinary hearing. FIRE pointed out that the Association for Student Judicial Affairs’s “Statement of Ethical Principles and Standards of Conduct” on “Conflict of Interest” requires that “if members are unable to perform their duties and responsibilities in a fair and just manner due to prior involvement with a party or parties, they shall remove themselves from the decision making process.” FIRE reminded CU officials that Ms. Goldblum should be intimately familiar with the ASJA standard of conduct on conflict of interest, because she is on the ASJA Board of Directors and serves as the ASJA Secretary.

Judge Hale granted CU’s motion to vacate his order prohibiting Carlos from contacting Andrea Goldblum, but warned CU officials that if they proceeded with Ms. Goldblum as the hearing officer, they did so “at their own peril.” Not surprisingly, Ms. Goldblum withdrew herself as the hearing officer shortly thereafter.

FIRE continues to support Carlos Martinez’s efforts to fight CU’s unjust efforts to expel him and is actively looking for an attorney to represent him in his pending court case.

Schools: University of Colorado Boulder Cases: University of Colorado at Boulder: Disciplinary Hearing Allowing Accuser to Judge Accused