IN THE MATTER OF THE HONORABLE MARY C. REESE, JUDGE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF MARYLAND FOR HOWARD COUNTY, TENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
Argued: March 6, 2018
Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities Case No. CJD
2015-132, CJD 2015-133 and CJD 2015-134
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
judicial disabilities case, we examine the decision of the
Commission on Judicial Disabilities ("the
Commission"), which determined that the Honorable Mary
C. Reese ("Judge Reese") committed sanctionable
conduct during the course of presiding over a peace order
hearing. Maryland Rule 18-401 defines "sanctionable
conduct" as "misconduct while in office, the
persistent failure by a judge to perform the duties of the
judge's office, or conduct prejudicial to the
administration of justice." Additionally, Maryland Rule
18-401 provides that "[a] judge's violation of any
of the provisions of the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct
promulgated by Title 18, Chapter 100 may constitute
August 2014 and February 2015, Judge Reese presided over two
hearings at which the petitioners sought a protective order
and a peace order, respectively. Judge Reese's conduct
during these hearings formed the basis for complaints of
judicial misconduct. Investigative Counsel charged Judge
Reese with violating multiple rules of judicial conduct.
Following an evidentiary hearing, the Commission concluded
that Judge Reese committed sanctionable conduct in the
February 2015 peace order hearing and recommended to this
Court that she attend training. Judge Reese filed exceptions.
On March 6, 2018, we heard oral argument and, on March 22,
2018, issued a per curiam order, disagreeing with
the Commission's conclusion and dismissing the matter
with prejudice. We were not persuaded that the judge's
exercise of judicial discretion constituted sanctionable
conduct or violated Rule 18-101.1 or 18-102.5(a). We shall
now explain why.
Reese has served as an Associate Judge of the District Court
of Maryland, District Ten, which includes both Howard and
Carroll counties, since 2006. On July 31, 2015, the
Women's Law Center of Maryland ("the Women's Law
Center") filed a complaint against Judge Reese with the
Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities ("the
Commission"). The Women's Law Center is a statewide
non-profit organization that has operated the Protective
Order Representation and Advocacy Project, a program
providing direct legal services for victims of domestic
violence, for over twenty years.The crux of the Women's
Law Center complaint involves Judge Reese's conduct
overseeing protective and peace orders, and cites three cases
for reference: Lauren M. Lewis v. Richelieu W. James
(Case No. 1002SP004962014), Patricia Stein v. Benton
Stephen Lecuyer (Case No.1002SP001402015), and Biden
v. Kramer (Case No. 1002SP005512014). In addition to
the Women's Law Center complaint, two of the individuals
referenced therein, Lauren M. Lewis and Patricia Stein, also
filed complaints against Judge Reese. Although the complete
transcripts for the Lewis and Stein matters
were accepted into evidence as joint exhibits before the
Commission, the Lewis matter was dismissed by the
Commission for insufficient evidence.
Stein v. Benton Stephen Lecuyer
February 18, 2015, Judge Reese presided over the matter of
Patricia Stein v. Benton Stephen Lecuyer, Case No.
1002SP001402015. Patricia Stein filed a Petition for Peace
Order on behalf of her seventeen-year-old granddaughter,
Tricia Hiltz. In presenting an ex parte petition for
a peace order under Md. Code (Repl. Vol. 2013), § 3-1504
of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings,  ("Cts. &
Jud. Proc."), Ms. Stein alleged that a former boyfriend,
Mr. Lecuyer, attacked her granddaughter. The relationship
between Ms. Hiltz and Mr. Lecuyer ended two weeks before Mr.
Lecuyer tracked her by phone to a friend's home. Upon
discovering Ms. Hiltz inside the home, Mr. Lecuyer assaulted
her and her friend, resulting in visible bruising around Ms.
Hiltz's eyes. During the hearing, Ms. Hiltz indicated
that she blocked Mr. Lecuyer from her phone, and she had not
spoken to him since the incident. The transcript of
Judge's Reese's examination of Ms. Hiltz, reflected
Q What do you want to tell me, ma'am?
A Well, everything she said is true.
MS. STEIN: Well, what do you got to -- I mean --
BY THE COURT:
Q Has this ever happened before?
Q Okay. Did you have any conversation with him that day?
A No. I blocked him from my phone. His phone number is
THE COURT: Okay. All right. It looks to me like she's
taking care (sic) of it. Okay?
MS. STEIN: Mm-hmm.
THE COURT: I have to be able to find two things. One, is that
one of the nine statutory forms of abuse have occurred. And,
number two, he's likely to commit the purported act
against her in the future.
And I don't have any indication from his past behavior
that anything like this is likely to occur again in the
future. So I'm not going to enter the order today. If
anything else were to occur, you can go to the
commissioner's office if the court is not open. Or you
can come back to the courthouse to file for relief. Okay?
MS. STEIN: Okay.
record reflects, Judge Reese found insufficient evidence that
the abuse was likely to occur in the future, but advised that
if another incident occurred, Ms. Stein and Ms. Hiltz could
return to the court to seek relief. An appeal of the denial
of the peace order was filed in the Circuit Court for Carroll
County, but later dismissed after the circuit court
determined that Ms. Hiltz was not eligible for a peace order.
before the Commission on Judicial Disabilities
on the complaints filed, the Commission filed a Statement of
Charges on April 16, 2017.
attempt to describe the nature of the sanctionable conduct,
the charges reflected the following:
Judge Reese engaged in behavior that failed to promote public
confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartially of
the judiciary. Judge Reese was not performing her duties
impartially and fairly and was manifesting bias or prejudice
regarding the litigants appearing before her. In the
Lecuyer case, Judge Reese afforded Petitioner a mere
four (4) minute hearing before denying her requested relief
after a few short inquiries, both undermining public
confidence in the judiciary and denying her the right to be
Judge Reese's behavior provides evidence that [she]
engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the proper
administration of justice in Maryland Courts[.]
result, Judge Reese was charged with violating the following
rules of the Maryland Code of the Judicial Conduct:
Rule 18-101.1 (formerly Rule 1.1) COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW
A judge shall comply with the law, including this Code of
Rule 18-101.2 (formerly Rule 1.2) PROMOTING CONFIDENCE IN THE
(a) Promoting Public
Confidence. A judge shall act at all times
in a manner that promotes public confidence in the
independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.
(b) Avoiding Perception of Impropriety. A
judge shall avoid conduct that would create in reasonable
minds a perception of impropriety.
Rule 18-102.2 (formerly Rule 2.2) IMPARTIALITY AND FAIRNESS
(a) A judge shall uphold and apply the law
and shall perform all duties of judicial office impartially
(b) A judge may make reasonable efforts,
consistent with the Maryland Rules and other law, to
facilitate the ability of all litigants, including
self-represented litigants, to be fairly heard.
Rule 18-102.3 (formerly Rule 2.3) BIAS, PREJUDICE, AND
(a) A judge shall perform the duties of
judicial office, including administrative duties, without
bias or prejudice.
Rule 18-102.5 (formerly Rule 2.5) COMPETENCE, DILIGENCE, AND
(a) A judge shall perform judicial and
administrative duties competently, diligently, promptly, and
without favoritism or nepotism.
Rule 18-100.4 (formerly C-101, C-102, and C-103) PREAMBLE
(a) Importance of Independent, Fair, Competent,
An independent, fair, competent, and impartial judiciary
composed of men and women of integrity who will interpret and
apply the law that governs our society is indispensable to
our system of justice. Thus, the judiciary plays a central
role in preserving the principles of justice and the rule of
law. Inherent in all the Rules contained in this Code are the
precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must
respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and
strive to maintain and enhance confidence in the legal
(b) Dignity of Judicial Office. Judges
should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times,
and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety
in their professional and personal lives. They should aspire
at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible
public confidence in their independence, impartiality,
integrity, and competence.
(c) Function of Code of Judicial Conduct.
This Code of Judicial Conduct establishes standards for the
ethical conduct of judges and judicial candidates. It is not
intended as an exhaustive guide for the conduct of judges and
judicial candidates, who are governed in their judicial and
personal conduct by general ethical standards as well as by
this Code. This Code is intended, however, to provide
guidance and assist judges in maintaining the highest
standards of judicial and personal conduct, and to provide a
basis for regulating their conduct through disciplinary
25, 2017, Judge Reese, through counsel, filed an Answer to
the Commission's charges.
November 11, 2017, the Commission conducted a hearing.
Investigative Counsel called no witnesses to testify, but
played an audio recording of the proceedings in Patricia
Stein v. Benton Stephen Lecuyer, Case No.
1002SP001402015. Judge Reese called four character witnesses:
Lorraine Lawrence Whittaker, Esquire, a private attorney
specializing in family law, Carol Hanson, Esquire, the
District Public Defender for Howard and Carroll counties,
Judge Joseph Murphy, and Judge James N. Vaughan. Judge Reese
also testified on her own behalf.
Whittaker testified that she has appeared before Judge Reese
for the last nine years as counsel in both criminal and civil
cases, including protective order matters. In her experience
appearing before Judge Reese, Ms. Whittaker believed that
Judge Reese was fair and unbiased. Ms. Hanson has known Judge
Reese for twenty years in a professional capacity. Ms. Hanson
testified that she has appeared before Judge Reese as counsel
in domestic violence matters on multiple occasions. Although
Ms. Hanson did not always agree with Judge Reese's
decisions, Ms. Hanson opined that Judge Reese consistently
treated litigants and attorneys with fairness and respect.
Reese testified that before she became a judge, she served as
an Assistant State's Attorney for Howard County and as a
private defense attorney for Reese & Carney, a private
law firm. Judge Reese testified that on a weekly basis, she
presided over traffic cases, landlord-tenant cases, and one
day a week, domestic violence cases, including peace orders
and protective orders. Judge Reese also singularly presided
over mental health cases. She understood that in her capacity
as a judge, she was tasked to listen to the individuals that
come before her, the facts presented, and apply those facts
to the law. Judge Reese indicated that she was aware of what
the relevant peace order statute, Cts. & Jud. Proc.
§ 3-1504, requires. She testified that she also is
familiar with the Maryland Judge's Domestic Violence
Manual, October 2009 Edition, and kept a copy at the bench.
Judge Reese was not ...