The State of Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities released its annual report for fiscal year 2023 covering the period of July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023.

The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities is the primary disciplinary body charged with investigating complaints that allege judicial misconduct, or disability/impairment (mental and/or physical) of Maryland’s judicial officers, as empowered by the Maryland Constitution. The commission’s contributions are essential in upholding public trust and preserving the judiciary’s impartiality and integrity. By serving as a platform for citizens to voice concerns against judges, the commission contributes to maintaining a delicate balance between judicial autonomy and public answerability. Furthermore, the commission plays a significant role in enhancing and reinforcing the judicial system by fostering awareness of appropriate judicial behavior.

Pursuant to Maryland Rule 18-411(i), the commission prepares an annual report for submission to the Supreme Court of Maryland. This report encompasses details about the commission’s activities, including statistical information concerning received and processed complaints, while taking into account materials designated as confidential.

In its 2023 annual report, the Commission revealed that it opened files for 336 verified complaints. In October of 2021, the commission began to accept online complaints; 168 complaints were received online in FY23. 12 complaints were filed by attorneys, 44 by inmates, 12 by Investigative Counsel, one by a judge, and 267 were filed by members of the general public. Complaints against Circuit Court Judges totaled 219; 96 complaints were filed against District Court Judges; three complaints were filed against Appellate Court of Maryland Judges; one complaint was filed against a Supreme Court of Maryland Justice; and 17 complaints were filed against Orphans’ Court Judges. There were 40 complaints against Senior Judges sitting in various jurisdictions and courts.

The range of matters involved in the reported cases includes various legal domains: family law matters such as divorce, custody, and visitation, comprising 88 complaints; peace and protective orders with 33 complaints; criminal cases amounting to 80 complaints; traffic-related incidents leading to nine complaints; civil disputes registering 94 complaints; juvenile cases resulting in three complaints; probate matters totaling 17 complaints; no reported instances of sexual harassment; and 12 miscellaneous or other non-courtroom related proceedings. Notably, a Circuit Court judge retired before the commission’s case disposition, while another resigned during the investigation phase. Two Orphans’ Court judges similarly resigned during the investigative stage of complaints. Furthermore, the investigation into an Orphans’ Court judge concluded upon the expiration of their term.

For dispositions, the report stated that the commission issued eight letters of cautionary advice. The commission issues a dismissal with a letter of cautionary advice when a situation arises where potentially sanctionable behavior attributed to a judge can be effectively addressed through the issuance of a cautionary letter (previously referred to as a warning). The specific content of this letter remains confidential and private. It’s important to note that this action does not constitute a form of disciplinary action. For reprimands, the commission issued four reprimands. In the matter of charges, there were two cases that were filed in the said period.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.