The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities issued a Notice of Public Charges against Judge William John Dotson, Orphan’s Court of Charles County Judge, stating that they will not hold a hearing to consider the said charges brought against the respondent.

The case is entitled “In the matter of Judge William John Dotson” with case no. CJD 2022-005.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 18-101.1, 18-101.2, 18-101.3, 18-102.16(a), 10-103.1(a)(d), 18-103.7, 18-103.10, and 18-104.2 which state:

A judge shall comply with the law, including this Code of Judicial Conduct. 

A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary. A judge shall avoid conduct that would create in reasonable minds a perception of impropriety. 

A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interest of the judge or others or allow others to do so. 

A judge shall cooperate and be candid and honest with judicial and attorney disciplinary agencies. 

Except as prohibited by law or this Code, a judge may engage in extrajudicial activities. When engaging in extrajudicial activities, a judge shall not (a) participate in activities that will interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s judicial duties; (6) participate in activities that will lead to frequent disqualification of the judge; participate in activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality; engage in conduct that would appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.

Subject to the requirements of Rules 18-103.1 and 18-103.6, a judge may participate in activities sponsored by organizations or governmental entities concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, and those sponsored by or on behalf of educational, religious, charítable, fraternal, or civic organizations not conducted for profit, including the following activities: assisting such an organízation or entity in planning related to fundraising and participating in the management and investment of the organization’s or entity’s funds; 

(1) soliciting contributions for such an organization or entity, but only from members of the judge’s family, or from judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority; 

2) soliciting membership for such an organization or entity, even though the membership dues or fees generated may be used to support the objectives of the organization or entity, but only if the organization or entity is concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; 3)soliciting membership for such an organization or entity, even though the membership dues or fees generated may be used to support the objectives of the organization or entity, but only if the organization or entity is concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; 

(4) making recommendations to such a public or private fund-granting organization or entity in connection with its programs and activities, but only if the organization or entity is concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; and 

(5) making recommendations to such public or private fund-granting organization or entity in connection with its programs and activities, but only if the organization or entity is concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; and (5) serving as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of such an organization or entity, unless it is likely that the organization or entity: (6) will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge, or (A) will frequently be engaged in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member, or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member. 

In General. Except as expressly allowed by this Rule, a judge shall not practice law. (a) (6) Exceptions. A judge may act self-represented in a matter involving the judge or the judge’s interest and, if without compensation, may give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge’s family. (1) To the extent expressly allowed by law and subject to other applicable provisions of this Code, a part-time judge of an orphans’ court who is an attorney may practice law, provided that: (2) the judge shall not use the judge’s judicial office to further the judge’s success in the practice of law, and (A) (B)the judge shall not appear as an attorney in the court in which the judge serves.

A judge who is not a candidate shall not engage in any partisan political activity.

The Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.

On October 26, 2022, the investigative Counsel of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities filed charges against the respondent, alleging that the respondent committed sanctionable conduct by lending the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of himself and others on Social Media, engaging in public partisan political discussion, improperly giving legal advice through his activity in Social Media, and failing to cooperate with disciplinary authorities. 

The filing states:

“November 10, 2021, Facebook post advertising a charity’s hiring efforts; Judge Dotson provided contact information, encouraged followers to “please pass the word”, encouraged one commenter to “please call; engaged in another fürther discussion in the comments; and agreed to make the post “shareable” at the request of a commentator; October 29, 2021, Facebook post advertising the opening of a local business and offering positive reviews and pictures of the business; September 24, 2021, Facebook post advertising the hiring efforts of Judge Dotson’s personal business, providing details and contact information, Judge Dotson engaged in further discussion in the comments and agreed to make the post “‘shareable” at the request of a commenter.”

The filing continues:

“On January 24, 2022, Facebook post sharing a partisan-themed article with the text, “cOVID-19 tests branded “Made in China,” with commentary from Judge Dotson, a January 20, 2022, Facebook post regarding the COVID infection rate and expressing his opinion about the response of the Charles County Commissioners; Judge Dotson engaged in further discussion of the issue in the comments and “liked” comments from other persons within the Comment thread; a November 30, 2021, Facebook post advocating his position on a local mask mandate policy; Judge Dotson encouraged attendance at a public hearing on a local law and posted the link to the public hearing, expressed support for a partisan political advocacy group, advocated for donations for payment of legal fees for said advocacy group, engaged in further discussion in the comments, and “liked” comments from other persons within the comment thread.”

On July 13, 2022, Judge Dotson entered into an Agreement with the Commission. The Agreement required Judge Dotson to take specific actions including, but not limited to, removing endorsements of businesses and charities from his social media pages and online presence; removing posts that advocate for political or legal issues from his social media pages and online presence; refraining from using his social media and online presence for endorsements of businesses, charities, politicians, and/or advocacy for political and social issues; and ceasing to use his business letterhead and email for judicial affairs. However, the respondent failed to do so. 

In a Notice issued by the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, it was stated that they will not hold a hearing to consider the said charges brought against the respondent. They also notified that the respondent had submitted his resignation effective on November 30, 2022. 

The Respondent sat as a Judge of the Orphan’s Court of Charles County, Maryland with address, 200 Charles St, La Plata, MD 20646, and can be reached at 1 301-932-3215. His bio can be found on trellis.law

A copy of the original filing can be found here