Laramie Municipal Court Judge Tony S. Lopez was ordered to be publicly censured and fined by the Wyoming Supreme Court last Friday. Court documents show that Judge Lopez violated the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct when he expressed his opinion on towing charges during a Laramie City Council meeting.

A complaint was received by the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics after Judge Lopez spoke at a public meeting of the Laramie City Council on March 22, 2011. Court documents read that “Judge Lopez identified himself, then suggested the Council address the issue of towing charge in its next work session, saying the issue comes before the Municipal Court about three times a year, and expressing his opinion: ‘quite frankly the towing people are gouging ‘em. …If you can make some amendment to the ordinance dealing with that as to the maximum amount, anything else is usurious or ridiculous or unconscionable…’”

Judge Lopez did not dispute the findings of the Commission. They found him to be in violation of Canon 1 of the Judicial Conduct code in respect to the appearance of impropriety which could appear to compromise the impartiality of a judge and undermine public confidence in the judiciary. Judge Lopez was also found to be in violation of Canon 3 which prohibits a judge from appearing before a legislative body, with certain exceptions which do not apply to the scenario in which he appeared before the city council.

The State Supreme Court followed the recommendation of the Commission for Judge Lopez to receive a public censure for the misconduct and to pay a $1,400 fine. Attempts to reach Judge Lopez were unsuccessful.