Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Judge On Trial

A very interesting - and well-argued - judicial discipline matter was heard today by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

From WBAL 11 is a report on the allegations

Judge Mary Reese is charged by a state commission with violating the code of judicial conduct.

A state panel that investigates complaints against judges is accusing Reese of judicial misconduct based on comments made from the bench in two domestic violence cases. She heard them in Carroll County.

One case involved a 17-year-old seeking a temporary peace order against her boyfriend. Standing before the judge with a black eye, she explained how she ended her relationship, then he tracked her to a friend's house where he forced his way inside and assaulted her and a friend.

Reese: Has this ever happened before?

Petitioner: No.

Reese: OK, did you have any conversation with him that day?

Petitioner: No. I blocked him from my phone. His phone number is blocked.

Reese: OK, all right. It looks to me like she's taking care of it. OK?

Reese added she needs to find that one form of abuse has occurred, and he's likely to commit the act against her again. Based on past behavior, no, so she is not going to enter the order. The judge advised the teen if it does happen again go to a commissioner's office or come back to the courthouse for relief.

In the other case, regarding a final protective order, Reese advised the petitioner, Lauren Lewis.

"If you pick a fight, you've got to expect to lose it, and when you're -- when you're picking a fight with him and he wants you out of the house or he's -- he wants you out of the car and you're not leaving, then you got to expect to lose the fight. Now, it seems to me you should go back and live with your aunt or your mother until school starts again," Reese said to Lewis.

In her response to the state commission, lawyers for Reese deny she's making unprofessional comments or engaging in unprofessional behavior:

"These charges are a targeted attack on Judge Reese by an advocacy group with a political agenda. The decisions Judge Reese made in cases this group cherry picked for its complaint were legally correct applications of Maryland Statutes to the facts presented to her."

More on judicial discipline in Maryland from the Baltimore Sun.

The commission held a hearing Thursday on charges filed against District Court Judge Mary C. Reese of Howard County. Duker said the case is a perfect example of how long complaints can take.

The Women’s Law Center of Maryland filed two complaints with the commission in July 2015. The commission ruled in April, nearly two years later, that Reese’s actions were “manifesting bias.”

Reese rejected the request of a 17-year-old girl for a temporary peace order against a man who had left her with a black eye visible in the courtroom. The girl told the judge she had blocked the man’s phone number to avoid contact with him.

“It looks to me like she’s taking care of it,” Reese said in court transcripts.

In a different domestic violence case, Reese told a woman that if she picks a fight with her abuser “you’ve got to expect to lose it,” according to transcripts.

In a response to the complaint, Reese called the allegations “a targeted attack on Judge Reese by an advocacy group with a political agenda.” She said she ruled correctly in both cases.

Michelle Daugherty Siri, executive director of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, said she would not comment because the case is still pending.

The commission said its investigation “revealed sanctionable conduct by Judge Reese with regard to her unprofessional comments and behavior.”

The court was very much engaged in the argument and granted extra time to the advocates. 

Oral argument linked here. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2018/03/a-very-interesting-and-well-argued-judicial-discipline-matter-was-heard-today-by-the-maryland-court-of-appeals-from-wba.html

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