Former Normandy Park Judge Resigns Over Sex Scandal

Former Judge Colleen HartlSEATTLE – A Federal Way Municipal Court judge has resigned after hosting a holiday party at which she claimed to be having an affair with a public defender who routinely appeared in her court.

Judge Colleen Hartl quit Dec. 19, less than a week after telling her guests – including five court employees – that she had sex with public defender Sean Cecil, and displaying a text message in which he complimented how she looked in “tight jeans,” Michael Morgan, the court’s presiding judge, said Wednesday.

A news release from the city cited “personal and health” reasons for the resignation.

Cecil, who was admitted to practice law in 2006, was one of three public defenders who regularly handled misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases in Federal Way. On Wednesday, Morgan issued an order barring him from representing poor defendants in the court. Morgan has also filed a complaint against Cecil with the state bar association.

Even after admitting the affair at the Friday night party, Hartl showed up for work the next Monday morning and presided over several cases handled by Cecil, Morgan said. At lunchtime that day, Morgan – who attended the party but left before Hartl’s admission – was advised of the relationship by a court staff member who witnessed the statement. Morgan suggested that Hartl not sit on any cases that afternoon, and she resigned two days later.

Hartl, 46 and married to a lawyer, does not have a listed phone number and could not immediately be reached for comment. Morgan said that Hartl later claimed to have misspoken at the party because she was drunk – contending she did not actually sleep with Cecil, but acknowledged having a relationship.

“In her later disclosures she said she had gone out on a date with him and there had been drinking and flirting and it had been inappropriate,” Morgan said.Sexy Judge

Cecil did not immediately return a call seeking comment. He works for the firm of Geiersbach and Kraft in Federal Way, which has a contract to represent indigent defendants there.

Hartl was a Federal Way judge for seven months, beginning last May. She was earning a salary of more than $127,000, according to a story about her resignation in The News Tribune of Tacoma last month. Before that, she became presiding municipal court judge in Des Moines in 2001 and in Normandy Park in 2004. She was admitted to the state bar in 1988.

The duration of the relationship was not immediately clear, but Morgan said Cecil had handled cases at the court longer than Hartl had been on the bench there. Morgan also said he did not know how many cases Cecil handled before the judge.

Federal Way City Attorney Pat Richardson said she did not know when a replacement for Hartl would be named. She said she did not plan to appeal any cases based on the relationship.

“We’re not aware of any cases where the relationship adversely affected the prosecution,” she said.

Morgan said he had known Hartl for at least 18 years, and that Hartl’s daughter had babysat for his daughter.

“Obviously, I was astonished. I had absolutely no idea there was any sort of relationship,” Morgan said. “It’s sad. She’s lived here a long time, and I know how badly she wanted the job.”



2 Responses to “Former Normandy Park Judge Resigns Over Sex Scandal”
  1. TexPD4Parity says:

    That’s why I don’t go to holiday parties. Let the alcohol flow and the chances of professional and/or marital destruction skyrocket.

  2. The Tacoma Tribune published some of the details of this on Saturday after the completion of a public records request.


    Perhaps the most damning quote from Hartl was accusing senior judge Michael Morgan of ‘workplace domestic violence’ in response to lawful requests for accountability.

    This, along with the married woman’s affair with a younger lawyer, updates the definition of ‘sleeping your way to the top’.

    My question though is why are we paying this gossiping trailer trash so much money? Perhaps it is because they threaten the legislators with ‘workplace domestic violence’ if they don’t cough it up?

    I think it also fair to speculate on the quality of the relationship between Hartl and her husband. Is it really one based on love – or is it really no better than the relationship between two man hating lesbians? (There are certainly a few of those established in legal practice, even working for Gregoire.)

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