IN THE MATTER OF JUDGE DEVY PATTERSON RUSSELL JUDGE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF MARYLAND LOCATED IN BALTIMORE CITY, DISTRICT ONE
Argued: March 4, 2019
Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities Case No. CJD No.
Greene, McDonald, Hotten, Getty, Harrell, Glenn T., Jr.,
(Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), Eyler, Deborah S.,
(Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), Thieme, Raymond G., Jr.,
(Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Maryland Judiciary serves the public by endeavoring to
preserve the principles of justice. In furtherance of the
judiciary's task and role in society, it is critical that
Maryland judges uphold the dignity of the office and aspire
to maintain public confidence in the judiciary. As such,
judges, at all times, are expected to conform their conduct
to ethical standards, which are codified in the Maryland Code
of Judicial Conduct. When a judge's conduct falls short
of that which is expected by the Rules, the judge may be
subject to disciplinary proceedings and sanctions. Maryland
Rule 18-401(k)(1). The Maryland Constitution vests the duty
of investigating and recommending disposition of instances
involving alleged judicial misconduct in the Commission on
Judicial Disabilities ("Commission"). See
generally, Md. Const. Art. IV, §§ 4A, 4B. The
Commission is empowered to investigate judicial misconduct
and, in certain instances, directly discipline judges. Md.
Const. Art. IV, § 4B. In the most serious instances, it
is this Court's duty to take action. See id.
present case, the Commission found that Respondent, the
Honorable Devy Patterson Russell ("Judge Russell"
or "Respondent"), engaged in misconduct. The
Commission explained that from 2007-2015, Judge Russell
abdicated her duty to handle and process search warrant
materials, as required by Maryland Rule 4-601 and internal
courthouse policies. Furthermore, Respondent failed to treat
fellow judges and courthouse staff with dignity and respect,
and her misbehavior created an uncomfortable and
unprofessional work environment. The Commission recommended
that Judge Russell be suspended for six months without pay
and that she take remedial measures to assist her when she
returns to her duties. The Commission referred the matter to
this Court. See Md. Const. Art. IV, § 4B(b);
see also Md. Rule 18-407(j). As such, we are called
upon to review whether Respondent committed sanctionable
conduct and decide the appropriate sanction, if any.
See Md. Const. Art. IV, § 4B(b).
relevant times, Judge Russell was an Associate Judge of the
District Court of Maryland, sitting in Baltimore City,
District One. She was appointed to the District Court in
February 2006 and confirmed to serve an initial 10-year term.
In February 2016, Judge Russell was reappointed and again
confirmed to sit on the District Court for a second term of
January 16, 2018, Investigative Counsel, at the directive of
the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, filed charges
against Judge Russell pursuant to Md. Rule
18-407(a).The charges followed the Commission's
review of an investigation that was conducted by
Investigative Counsel, which yielded probable cause for the
Commission to believe that Judge Russell committed
sanctionable conduct, as defined by Md. Rule
18-401(k). Judge Russell filed a "Response to
Commission's Charges" on March 14, 2018, consistent
with Md. Rule 18-407(c). Therein, she denied the charges,
raised objections to the investigation procedure and factual
predicates, and requested a hearing.
in accord with Md. Rule 18-407, the Commission held a public
hearing on the charges on October 15-19 and November 5, 2018.
At the hearing, Judge Russell appeared with counsel and the
Commission was represented by Investigative Counsel. In
total, the Commission received 50 exhibits from Investigative
Counsel and 17 exhibits from Judge Russell; heard testimony
from 21 witnesses called by Investigative Counsel and 14
witnesses called by Judge Russell; reviewed Judge
Russell's prior record with the Commission; and
considered more than four dozen letters supporting Judge
December 6, 2018 the Commission filed "Amended Findings
of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order and Recommendations"
pursuant to Md. Rule 18-407(k)(1).
Commission found that, from 2007-2015, Judge Russell failed
to handle and process search warrant materials in a manner
consistent with Md. Rule 4-601 and internal District Court
procedures. According to the Commission findings, Judge
Russell instructed a law clerk to destroy the warrant
materials. In addition, the Commission found that when
clerical errors were made, Judge Russell yelled at court
clerks, subjected them to lineups, and on one occasion
physically pushed a clerk. Furthermore, Judge Russell
repeatedly yelled at fellow judges and attempted to undermine
the authority of judges delegated administrative duties. Her
conduct occurred in public and in private, and it fostered an
uncomfortable and tense work environment in the courthouse to
which Judge Russell was assigned.
Commission unanimously found clear and convincing evidence
that Judge Russell's conduct violated Md. Rules 18-101.1
(Compliance with the Law), 18-101.2 (Promoting Confidence in
the Judiciary), 18-102.5 (Competence, Diligence, and
Cooperation), 18-102.8 (Decorum, Demeanor, and Communication
with Jurors), and 18-102.12 (Supervisory
Duties). Having concluded that Judge Russell
committed sanctionable conduct, the Commission recommended
her immediate suspension for a period of six months without
pay. In addition, the Commission recommended that Judge
Russell be required to undertake remedial measures to assist
her as she returns to her duties. The Commission ordered that
the matter be referred to this Court for review, in
accordance with Md. Rule 18-407(j).
December 31, 2018, Judge Russell filed "Exceptions by
Judge Russell to Amended Findings of Fact, Conclusions of
Law, Order and Recommendation" with this Court.
See Md. Rule 18-408(b) (Exceptions). The Commission
responded to Judge Russell's Exceptions on January 16,
2019 in a "Response to Exceptions by Judge Russell to
Amended Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order and
Recommendation." See Md. Rule 18-408(c)
(Response). A hearing was conducted before this Court on
March 4, 2019. See Md. Rule 18-408(d) (Hearing). In
this opinion, we review which, if any, Maryland Rules
Respondent violated. See Md. Rule 18-408(e)
(Disposition); see also Md. Rule 18-408(f)
(Decision). Upon our determination of the existence of
sanctionable conduct, we impose the appropriate sanction.
See Md. Rule 18-408(e) (Disposition).
ALLEGED LEGAL ERRORS
preliminary matter, Respondent raises several legal
challenges to the Commission's disposition of her case.
Respondent alleges that the Commission erred when it denied
her Motion to Recuse and Motion to Suppress. Furthermore,
Respondent claims that a host of legal doctrines support
dismissing the charges against her. Finally, Respondent
argues that several procedural defects occurred, which
require that the charges be dismissed. We review each
allegation in turn.
Motion to Recuse
August 31, 2018, Respondent filed a "Motion to
Recuse." Therein, Respondent requested that the
Honorable Susan H. Hazlett ("Judge Hazlett"), who
is the Commission's Vice Chair and the Administrative
Judge for the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Harford
County, recuse herself from Respondent's proceedings. On
September 10, 2018, the Commission filed an Order and a
supporting memorandum denying Respondent's Motion. The
Commission explained that it lacked information concerning
any occurrence involving Respondent with which Judge Hazlett
was personally familiar. In addition, the Commission
explained that Judge Hazlett was not predisposed to find any
witness credible. Finally, the Commission determined that,
even if Judge Hazlett's recusal was warranted, the rule
of necessity overrides the rule of recusal. Accordingly,
Judge Hazlett participated in the disposition of
this Court, Respondent argues that the Commission erred by
denying her Motion to Recuse. She emphasizes that the
Honorable John P. Morrissey ("Chief Judge
Morrissey"), Chief Judge of the District Court of
Maryland, testified at the Commission hearing. Respondent
argues that Chief Judge Morrissey is Judge Hazlett's
boss, so Judge Hazlett's impartiality could reasonably be
questioned. The Commission maintains that the Motion was
properly denied because Judge Hazlett's impartiality was
not compromised, and the rule of necessity required her
participation in any event.
conduct of Commission business, the Commission's members
are bound by the rule of recusal. Md. Rule 18-402(b).
Commission members must recuse themselves when, inter
alia, "the recusal of a judicial member would
otherwise be required by the Maryland Code of Judicial
Conduct." Id. Generally speaking, a judge is
required to recuse himself or herself from a proceeding when
a reasonable person with knowledge and understanding of all
the relevant facts would question the judge's
impartiality. Jefferson- El v. State, 330
Md. 99, 106-07, 622 A.2d 737, 741 (1993) (citations omitted).
We review a judge's decision to recuse or not to recuse
under an abuse of discretion standard. Id. at 107,
622 A.2d at 741. "[T]here is a strong presumption in
Maryland . . . that judges are impartial participants in the
legal process, whose duty to preside when qualified is as
strong as their duty to refrain from presiding when not
example, in In re Turney, we held that a judge
should have recused himself from a hearing. 311 Md. 246,
246-47, 533 A.2d 916, 916-17 (1987). There, Frederick Leary
was issued a citation and charged with possession of a fake
license. Id. at 247, 533 A.2d at 917. Mr. Leary
obtained the fake license from the son of the Honorable Jack
R. Turney, a judge of the District Court of Maryland, sitting
in Garrett County. Id. Mr. Leary was Judge
Turney's ex-wife's stepson and a close friend of
Judge Turney's son. Id. Mr. Leary's case
came before the District Court, and Judge Turney presided
over the hearing. Id. at 248, 533 A.2d at 917-18.
During the hearing, Judge Turney made efforts to prevent Mr.
Leary from disclosing who he obtained the fake license from,
and ultimately accepted Mr. Leary's guilty plea and
imposed a fine. Id. at 248-50, 533 A.2d at 918-19.
Judge Turney was sanctioned for his conduct. Id. at
257-58, 533 A.2d at 922.
Respondent's Motion to Recuse was properly denied. Judge
Hazlett had no demonstrable personal ties to Respondent or
the outcome of Respondent's proceeding that would
influence her review of the evidence. As Respondent points
out, Judge Hazlett and Chief Judge Morrissey both preside
narrowly or broadly, respectively, over the District Court of
Maryland. There is no allegation that they have a
particularly close friendship. Given that Judge Hazlett is
the Administrative Judge for the District Court of Maryland,
sitting in Harford County, Chief Judge Morrissey is, perhaps
in a colloquial sense, her boss. As Chief Judge of the
District Court, Chief Judge Morrissey is the administrative
head of the District Court. He is entrusted with overseeing
"the maintenance, administration, and operation of the
[district] court in all its locations throughout the
State." Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc., §
1-605(a); Md. Rule 16-106(a). In that capacity, however, he
does not have authority over Judge Hazlett's independent
decision making - in this or any other case. See id.
As such, there is no indication that Judge Hazlett formed an
opinion in this case, or was otherwise influenced by, her
professional affiliation with Chief Judge
as one of three members of the judiciary serving on the
Commission, our Constitution tasks Judge Hazlett, in
collaboration with the Commission's other judicial
members, with reviewing the conduct of and, if appropriate,
sanctioning her fellow judges. Md. Const. Art. IV, § 4B.
By the very nature of her position as an Administrative Judge
or Vice Chair of the Commission, Judge Hazlett may be
required to assess the performance of individuals with whom
she is professionally acquainted. Indeed, that is her duty.
In accordance with her duties, Judge Hazlett was one of seven
Commission members who participated in the unanimous decision
and recommendation in the present case. Under these
circumstances, a reasonable person would not doubt Judge
Hazlett's independent and impartial judgment.
Accordingly, Respondent's Motion to Recuse Judge Hazlett
was properly denied.
Motion to Suppress
considerable portion of the hearing before the Commission
concerned Respondent's handling of search warrants. The
circumstances regarding the search warrant issues are more
thoroughly explored later in this opinion. For now, we simply
note that Respondent stored search warrant materials in
boxes. The boxes were removed from the courthouse at the
direction of the Honorable Barbara Waxman ("Judge
Waxman"), Administrative Judge of the District Court, and
delivered to Investigative Counsel on December 21, 2016. On
September 13, 2018, Respondent filed a Motion to Suppress.
Respondent argued that the boxes of warrants were taken in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution, Articles 22 and 24 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights, and Maryland Rule 4-601. On
September 14, 2018, the Commission denied Respondent's
Motion to Suppress, concluding that the exclusionary rule
does not apply to proceedings before the Commission. At
Respondent's hearing before the Commission, the warrants
were admitted into evidence. Respondent now contends that her
Motion to Suppress was improperly denied.
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and its
Maryland counterpart protects citizens from unreasonable
searches and seizures. Wilkes v. State, 364 Md. 554,
570-71, 774 A.2d 420, 430 (2001). For the Fourth Amendment to
apply, an individual must demonstrate that a government actor
infringed upon his or her "actual, subjective
expectation of privacy in [an] item or place searched"
and that "the expectation [of privacy] is one that
society is prepared to recognize as reasonable."
Walker v. State, 432 Md. 587, 605, 69 A.3d 1066,
1077 (2013) (citation omitted).
Walker v. State, this Court explained that public
employees may have privacy expectations in their work spaces.
Id. at 608, 69 A.3d at 1079. Such expectations,
however, may be curtailed "by virtue of actual office
practices and procedures[.]" Id. There, we
concluded that a teacher lacked a privacy interest in his
desk at the elementary school where he worked. Id.
at 612-13, 69 A.3d at 1081-82. The teacher's desk was in
an open room with a high volume of traffic. Id. at
612, 69 A.3d at 1081. It had labels on its drawers indicating
that work items, not personal items, were stored within it,
and the teacher "fail[ed] to lock the desk when given
the option to do so[.]" Id.
according to Judge Waxman, Respondent's search warrant
materials were discovered in a courthouse where Respondent
had not worked for approximately two months. The boxes were
labeled "Russell" and "Civil," and they
were found in an unsecure location. Judge Waxman explained,
and neither party disputes, that "[t]he boxes were found
in the law clerks' office . . . not in a judge's
chambers." The office was "the judges'
clerks' office where there's a little portion of the
clerks' office that's been set aside for the law
clerks, but it's all one big area." In that
location, the boxes were accessible by individuals working
inside and outside of the judiciary. In sum, Respondent
stored her boxes of warrants unsecure and in a high-traffic
area that was outside of her personal workspace and immediate
attention. As a result, Respondent cannot claim a reasonable
expectation of privacy in the boxes, as is necessary to
prevail on her Motion to Suppress. Therefore, we conclude
that Respondent's Motion to Suppress was properly denied
pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution, Articles 22 and 24 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights, and Md. Rule
Limitations, Laches, Res Judicata, Estoppel, Separation of
Powers (Constitutional Reappointment), and Fundamental
contends that allegations of her misconduct were not brought
to the attention of Maryland Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr.
("Governor Hogan") or the Maryland Senate in
February 2016 when she was reappointed and confirmed for her
second term as a judge. Respondent notes that many of the
Commission's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are
predicated on events that took place before February 2016,
and were known by and discussed with Respondent's
colleagues and supervisors. Respondent explains that
"[i]t is difficult to articulate a concise neat legal
theory for the legal objections in this section[, ]" but
she maintains that it is unfair for her to be disciplined for
conduct that occurred prior to her 2016 reappointment.
Accordingly, Respondent invites us to dismiss the charges
brought against her. The Commission contends that
Respondent's position is unsubstantiated, and that a
judge may be sanctioned for his or her conduct so long as the
judge remains in office.
unpersuaded that the host of legal theories that Respondent
asserts warrant dismissing the charges against her. The
Maryland Rules do not set forth a statute of limitations for
when the Commission must commence disciplinary proceedings
against a judge. Rather, the Rules afford the Commission
broad discretion to discipline "sanctionable
conduct," defined 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 proper
administration of justice." Md. Rule 18-401(k)(1). In
addition, the allegations of judicial misconduct brought
against Respondent have not been the subject of a prior
action before any tribunal which resulted in a final
we cannot fathom, and Respondent does not articulate, how it
is prejudicial or unfair to Respondent for the Commission to
hold her accountable for conduct that she committed while
serving as a judge, albeit before her reappointment in 2016.
Given that Respondent is serving as a Maryland judge, she is
subject to the authority of the Commission and this Court for
disciplinary matters. See Md. Rule 18-407 (affording
the Commission discretion to review and discipline
"sanctionable conduct," as defined in Md. Rule
18-401(k)). Moreover, the Commission was not presented with
an isolated instance of Respondent's conduct that
occurred before 2016. The Commission reviewed instances of
conduct that reflect a larger pattern of uncooperative and
unseemly behavior. Absent any discernible prejudice to
Respondent, to limit the Commission's authority to act on
judicial misconduct based off of what the Governor and the
General Assembly may or may not have known at the time of
Respondent's reappointment would be speculative,
arbitrary, and repulsive to the administration of justice.
Therefore, we decline to dismiss the charges against
Respondent based upon limitations, laches, res judicata,
estoppel, constitutional separation of powers, or fundamental
Motion to Dismiss
Respondent filed a number of pleadings in this case, raising
alleged procedural defects. On March 14, 2018, Respondent
filed a "Response to the Commission's Charges"
that asserted procedural defects. In addition, Respondent
filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus with this Court on
March 14, 2018, which we denied on March 22, 2018. Finally,
on October 12, 2018, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss
with the Commission. The Commission denied the Motion to
Dismiss on November 7, 2018.
this Court, Respondent maintains that procedural defects
occurred before charges were brought against her.
Specifically, she contends that the procedural requirements
in Md. Rules 18-404 and 18-405 were not followed to her
detriment. Respondent claims that she was not given a
reasonable opportunity to present information to the Judicial
Inquiry Board ("Board") or object to the
Board's report and recommendation. Finally, Respondent
claims that she was not given notice of her
"disrespectful, combative, and unprofessional
interactions with fellow judges and other courthouse
staff" before the charges were filed. The Commission
insists that Respondent's allegations are unfounded.
was afforded and utilized the procedural mechanisms available
to her under the Rules. Investigative Counsel issued her
report to the Judicial Inquiry Board on September 25, 2017.
Included within that report were 13 responses from
Respondent, thus indicating that Respondent was permitted to
supply information with regard to the investigation before it
concluded. See Md. Rule 18-404(e)(5). Less than 45
days later, on October 16, 2017, the Board sent the
Commission its report and recommendation. See Md.
Rule 18-404(j)(3). The Board recommended that the Commission
find probable cause to believe that Respondent committed
sanctionable conduct. To reach its disposition, the Board
reviewed the 13 items submitted by Respondent, in addition to
exhibits, statements, and other items that were submitted by
Investigative Counsel. On October 26, 2017, the Board
released its report to Respondent and Investigative Counsel.
Thereafter, Respondent requested and was granted an extension
of time to respond to the Board's report. On December 7,
2017, Respondent filed objections to the report, challenging
the Board's recommendation.
to see how the procedural requirements for the preliminary
investigation and Board review under Md. Rules 18-404 and
18-504 were violated. Under the unambiguous language of Md.
Rule 18-404(e), Respondent was not, as she contends, entitled
to present information to the Judicial Inquiry Board. Md.
Rule 18-404(e) does not apply to the Board. It provides that
"Investigative Counsel shall afford the judge a
reasonable opportunity to present, in person or in writing,
such information as the judge chooses" during the
preliminary investigation. Md. Rule 18-404(e)(5). The record
indicates that Respondent presented 13 items to Investigative
Counsel. Furthermore, contrary to Respondent's
contention, she was permitted to and did in fact object to
the Board's report and recommendations. She was even
extended extra time to do so.
the Rules do not require the Commission or this Court to
dismiss an action when procedural requirements are not met
with strict compliance. At best, when certain time
requirements regarding the preliminary investigation into the
conduct of a judge are not met, the Commission may -
but is not required to - terminate the proceeding. Md. Rule
18-404(e)(6). Respondent was given ample notice of the
charges brought against her, and a full and fair opportunity
to defend herself against them. Accordingly, the charges
brought against Respondent should not be dismissed based on
the alleged procedural defects.
RESPONDENT'S EXCEPTIONS TO THE COMMISSION'S FINDINGS
OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
direct our attention to Respondent's Exceptions to the
Commission's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. The
Commission issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, in
which it found by clear and convincing evidence that
Respondent's conduct violated Md. Rules 18-101.1
(Compliance with the Law), 18-101.2 (Promoting Confidence in
the Judiciary), 18-102.5 (Competence, Diligence, and
Cooperation), 18-102.8 (Decorum, Demeanor, and Communication
with Jurors), and 18-102.12 (Supervisory Duties), and that
her violations amounted to sanctionable
our independent review, this Court must determine whether the
charges against the [R]espondent are supported by clear and
convincing evidence and which, if any, [Rules] have been
violated." In re Lamdin, 404 Md. 631, 637, 948
A.2d 54, 57 (2008) (citing In re Diener and
Broccolino, 268 Md. 659, 670, 304 A.2d 587, 594 (1973)).
"[A]lthough the [Commission's] report is only
advisory, [we] should give full consideration to it,
particularly with respect to the credibility of witnesses,
where the testimony is conflicting." See In re
Bennett, 301 Md. 517, 530, 483 A.2d 1242, 1248 (1984)
(quoting Bar Ass'n v. Marshall, 269 Md. 510, 307
A.2d 677 (1973)). Accordingly, the Commission's
"findings of fact from the evidence are prima facie
correct and they will not be disturbed unless determined to
be clearly erroneous." Id. If this Court
concludes that sanctionable conduct has occurred, we
"must then determine what discipline, if any, is
appropriate under the circumstances." Lamdin,
404 Md. at 637, 948 A.2d at 57. Our decision "shall be
evidenced by an Order of the Court, certified under seal and
shall be accompanied by a written opinion." Id.
(citation omitted); see Md. Rule 18-408(f).
Exceptions, Respondent objected to nearly all of the
Commission's findings of fact and conclusions of law. For
purposes of organization, we have divided the
Commission's findings of fact and conclusions of law, and
Respondent's objections thereto, into two categories: (1)
Search Warrant Issues; and (2) Interpersonal Issues. We
review each category in turn.
Search Warrant Issues
of background, the Maryland Rules set forth procedures for
judges to follow when, inter alia, granting search
warrants, handling search warrant materials, and processing
search warrant materials. See generally Md. Rule
4-601. When a judge issues a search warrant, he or she must
sign it and deliver the warrant and a copy of the application
and its supporting affidavit to the applicant. Md. Rule
4-601(c). In addition, the judge must retain a copy of the
application, affidavit, and warrant. Md. Rule 4-601(d)(2).
Additionally, "[a] search warrant shall be issued with
all practicable secrecy." Md. Rule 4-601(d)(1).
the warrant may or may not be executed. If the warrant is
executed, the executing officer must prepare a search warrant
return and deliver the warrant, warrant return,
and a verified list of inventory that was seized to,
preferably, the judge who issued the warrant. Md. Rule
4-601(f). Then, according to testimony on the record, a judge
who receives warrant materials from an officer will generally
have the officer affirm the property that was recovered, and
the judge will sign the warrant return. Subsequently, the
judge must compile the warrant, warrant return, verified
inventory, "and all other papers in connection with the
issuance, execution, and return, including the copies
retained by the issuing judge, and shall file them with the
clerk of the court for the county from which the warrant was
issued." Md. Rule 4-601(g). If the warrant is not
executed, the executing officer must return the warrant to
the issuing judge who, upon receiving the unexecuted warrant,
"may destroy the warrant and related papers or make any
other disposition the judge deems proper." Md. Rule
Commission's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
Commission found that over the course of several years,
Respondent failed to process her search warrants in a timely
manner. Specifically, Respondent failed to keep the warrants
in her possession confidential and secure pending possible
return and processing. Additionally, Respondent did not
promptly match warrants with warrant returns and transmit
them to the clerk for filing. Based on testimony at the
hearing, the Commission found that Respondent had boxes
containing at least 135 warrants that should have been, but
were not, matched with a return and sent to the clerk for
filing. "By the Commission's own count, however,
there were  more warrants that were either processable or
potentially processable." The Commission concluded that
Respondent's failure to process search warrants in a
timely manner and related conduct violated Md. Rules
4-601(g), 18-101.1 (Compliance with the Law), and 18-102.5(a)
(performing judicial and administrative duties competently,
diligently, and promptly).
Commission found that in 2016, Respondent tasked Ama Asare, a
law clerk, with taking boxes in which Respondent accumulated
warrant-related materials and matching warrants with warrant
returns. The Commission found that Respondent ultimately told
Ms. Asare, "Just get rid of them," referring to the
search warrants that she was tasked with matching up. The
Commission concluded that Respondent's direction to Ms.
Asare violated Md. Rules 18-101.1 (Compliance with the Code
of Judicial Conduct) and 18-102.12(a) (Supervisory Duties).
Commission also found that Respondent violated existing
internal policies, followed by judges serving on the District
Court, relating to search warrants. One of the policies was
implemented by Administrative Judge Waxman and
"direct[ed] District Court judges not to review and sign
warrants while sitting at the Civil Courthouse except under
exigent circumstances." The Commission found that
Respondent continued to review and sign search warrants while
assigned to work at the Civil Courthouse. Respondent admitted
to her conduct when she testified, and two of her witnesses
confirmed her testimony.
the Commission found that the District Court had a policy
that prohibited a judge from signing a search warrant return
for another judge unless the two judges were assigned to the
same court location. The policy served to ensure that search
warrants were handled confidentially and securely, as search
warrants contain sensitive information and may be evidence.
The Commission found that "[i]n November 2017,
[R]espondent signed a search warrant for Judge Joan Bossman
Gordon while Judge Gordon was assigned to a different court
location." Moreover, "[t]he return was transmitted
to Judge Gordon through interoffice mail, also violating the
policy." The Commission found that Respondent's
conduct violated Md. Rules 18-101.1 (Compliance with the Law,
including the Code of Judicial Conduct), 18-102.5(b)
(Cooperation with other judges and court officials), and
18-102.5(c) (Compliance with administrative rules or
reasonable directives of supervisors).
Exceptions to the Commission's Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law
denies violating Md. Rule 4-601. She contends that she
properly processed and securely maintained her search warrant
materials. Respondent explains that, since becoming a judge,
she has never destroyed any of her search warrant materials,
but she treated her "non-processable" and
"processable" warrants differently. She opted to
keep "non-processable" warrants, even though Md.
Rule 4-601 permitted her to destroy them. The
"non-processable" warrants were the documents that
she kept in boxes, which she referred to as her "nomad
boxes." By contrast, Respondent maintains that for
warrants that she deemed "processable" she would,
immediately or periodically, match up the various documents
and file them. With these methods in practice, when she
transferred to a different courthouse, she would not have to
carry her "processable" warrants with her. She
would simply carry her nomad boxes, containing her
accumulation of warrants that she deemed
Respondent's nomad boxes were collected by Judge Waxman,
the Administrative Judge, and the Honorable Mark F. Scurti
("Judge Scurti"), the Judge in Charge of the Civil
Docket for the District Court. Judge Waxman examined and
collated the documents in the nomad boxes, and she discovered
135 warrants that should have been filed with the clerk's
office. According to Respondent, however, the documents that
Judge Waxman found were "non-processable" warrants
because there was no "judicial" copy of them.
addition, Respondent argues that the Commission misunderstood
the scenario involving Ms. Asare. Respondent explains that in
September 2016, she was transferred to a new courthouse, so
she emptied a drawer that had accumulated search warrants.
She assigned Ms. Asare the task of matching up the warrants
with warrant returns. Then, she instructed Ms. Asare to
"get rid" of warrants that Ms. Asare could not
match up, which Respondent alleges was permitted by the
Rules. According to Respondent, however, the warrants
"would not be 'gotten rid of[, ]' they would be
kept in the nomad boxes." She argues that Ms. Asare, a
"brand-new inexperienced law clerk[, ]"
misinterpreted her instructions.
Respondent argues that the Commission misstated the policy
change implemented by Judge Waxman. Furthermore, Respondent
posits that her handling of Judge Gordon's warrant
return, albeit improper, did not cause any harm. ...