On Thursday, June 6, 2024, The Daily Record reported that members of the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities discussed key topics relating to judicial ethics at a summit held by the Maryland State Bar Association.

At the event, Judge Anne Albright, the chair of the Commission, emphasized that the rules and standards regarding conduct apply not just to sitting judges but also to those hoping to become judges, such as attorneys. Any past conduct, even before taking the bench, could potentially be considered if a complaint is later filed.

Bias and impartiality were also major subjects. One of the judiciary’s main aims is to appear fair and unbiased to all, according to Judge Mark Chandlee, the chair of the Commission’s board. He noted that accusations of demeanor, bias, or partiality are frequent allegations in complaints. The Commission reviews complaints thoroughly, even watching video footage of court proceedings closely to examine body language and interactions with litigants for any potential issues.

Tanya Bernstein, the Commission’s director and investigative counsel, described how she conducts a preliminary review of complaints to potentially dismiss those without sanctionable conduct alleged. The Commission only considers conduct, not legal decisions themselves, unless additional impropriety beyond the decision is claimed.

Further privacy and safety issues were raised. Judges generally aren’t informed of complaints or investigations against them unless disclosure is deemed necessary. Confidentiality is important both to prevent misuse of information that could become public and to enable cooperation from witnesses who may fear retaliation. The judiciary also has a new threat management unit following last year’s tragic fatal shooting of a judge at his home.

In closing, Judge Albright emphasized that the Commission’s overall goal is to improve Maryland’s court system and that most judges work constructively after being alerted to issues. While crimes are serious, noncooperation with investigators can exacerbate matters.

The judges’ summit discussion covered pressing concerns around social media use, political activities, and recent litigation trends involving the Commission to help uphold the highest standards of judicial ethics in the state.



Source: The Daily Record