June 12, 2009
Activist Judge Reversed
The Maryland Court of Appeals has reversed criminal convictions and ordered new trials in two separate cases that were tried before the same Baltimore City Circuit judge. The court held that the judge's "repeated and egregious behavior created a fundamentally flawed atmosphere, which prevented the defendants from obtaining fair and impartial trials." The court found plain error in both matters. Notwithstanding the lack of defense objection, the court "also concluded that the failure to object may only be countenanced in those instances in which the judge exhibits repeated and egregious behavior of partiality, reflective of bias..." The opinion quotes extensively from the transcripts of the trials.
No plaudits to the lawyers: "It is clear in both cases that neither prosecutors presented the cases well, nor did the defense attorneys adequately represent their clients."
There is a dissent that takes issue with the view that the judge overstepped his proper role and would affirm the convictions in both cases.
As an aside, the ABA Journal picked up on this case and identified the judge (the opinion does not), who just happens to be my first boss. (Mike Frisch)
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