Wednesday, September 30, 2020
The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a person making a judicial misconduct complaint has no standing to challenge dismissal of the matter
On November 2, 2017, Mr. Green filed a complaint with the Commission [on Judicial Disabilities]. Although the Commission’s confidential records are not included in the record on appeal in this Court, Mr. Green asserts that his filing with the Commission included a statement of facts, under oath, alleging sanctionable conduct or disability by a judge.
On May 2, 2018, the Commission sent Mr. Green a letter, notifying him that his complaint had been reviewed and considered by the Judicial Inquiry Board and the Commission. The letter advised that, after reviewing the materials that Mr. Green submitted, and the other materials gathered during the investigation, “the Commission concluded that the evidence failed to show that the judge committed sanctionable conduct.” Accordingly, the letter stated that the Commission had dismissed the complaint, “as required by 18-406(a)(1).”
The complainant nonetheless persisted
On May 29, 2018, Mr. Green filed two complaints in the circuit court. One sought judicial review of the Commission’s dismissal of his complaint, alleging that Mr. Green “was a party to the agency decision.” The other sought a declaratory judgment...
On September 14, 2018, the circuit court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss the complaint for judicial review. The court stated that it was in “uncharted territory.” The Commission reiterated the arguments in its motion, and counsel for Mr. Green argued that he had the right to request administrative mandamus.
The court ultimately granted the motion to dismiss. It stated that the reasons given by the Commission warranted dismissal.
The trial court also dismissed the declaratory judgment action.
The court rejected Green's standing as a member of the Bar
Here, the disciplinary system for judges in Maryland similarly serves to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the judiciary. It is not designed to remedy alleged wrongs to the complainant. Accordingly, consistent with the analysis set forth in other jurisdictions, Mr. Green has not shown that he was injured or aggrieved by the Commission’s decision dismissing his complaint.
Mr. Green argues, however, that he was aggrieved, as the complainant to the Commission, by “the lack of procedural due process afforded” to him. This contention has no merit.
Only the judge has rights
A person who files a complaint against a judge, however, does not have a life, liberty, or property interest at stake when the Commission decides whether to pursue judicial discipline. Thus, a person filing a complaint with the Commission has no due process rights. Mr. Green was not entitled to due process, and his argument that he failed to receive it, therefore, is not a sufficient ground to find that he was aggrieved or suffered an injury.
We hold that, because the purpose of the judicial disciplinary system is to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the judiciary, not to vindicate any individual person’s interest, a person who files a complaint with the Commission has no standing to seek judicial review of the Commission’s resolution of the complaint. The circuit court properly dismissed both of Mr. Green’s complaints for lack of standing.