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Judge Lamdin to retire, keep pension after groups’ complaint

The Commission on Judicial Disabilities is dropping its investigation of Maryland District Court Judge Bruce S. Lamdin in light of his decision to step down from the Baltimore County bench next month.

The commission’s chief investigator called Lamdin’s retirement an “appropriate” resolution to a recent complaint that he made derisive comments to a woman who was seeking a protective order against her husband.

“The conclusion to the case should help restore the public’s faith in the integrity and quality of the Maryland Judiciary,” Steven P. Lemmey, investigative counsel for the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, said Wednesday.

Lamdin’s decision preserves his annual pension of about $53,000 based on his length of service and his final year’s salary of $127,252, according to the Maryland Judiciary.

If Lamdin, 64, had served until the mandatory retirement age of 70, his salary would have increased and his pension could have been closer to $93,000.

However, the judge stated in a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday that he would not seek reappointment when his 10-year term expires Oct. 14.

Based on a transcript of the December protective-order hearing, Lamdin asked the woman where her husband would live if the judge ordered him out of his house, and told her that she could go to a shelter if she was really afraid.

“If your concern was really for the safety of your children and yourself, you’d already be out of there,” Lamdin added. “But as always, based on your testimony, it comes back to the almighty dollar and you can’t afford to.”

Lamdin issued the temporary protective order, but warned the woman it was not a shield.

“You can hold a piece of paper right up in front of this gentleman and he can shoot you right through it,” Lamdin said, according to the transcript. “It’s no guarantee.”

The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, House of Ruth Maryland and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault filed a complaint against Lamdin last week with the Commission on Judicial Disabilities based on the judge’s comments

Dorothy J. Lennig, House of Ruth Maryland’s legal clinic director, called Lamdin’s announced retirement “an appropriate way to resolve this issue.”

“What really troubled me was how he treated her in the courtroom,” Lennig said Wednesday. “He essentially tortured her.”

Lamdin was wrong on both counts when he told the woman that she could always go to a shelter and that a protective order is essentially worthless, Lennig said.

“That’s easier said than done,” Lennig said of finding room in a shelter. “Often you can’t get into a shelter. We only have a certain number of beds.”

And protective orders do provide a safeguard, Lennig said. A House of Ruth Maryland survey that showed 89 percent of victims with orders had not been threatened or harassed during the six weeks after the judges’ order.

“I would not tell anyone that a protective order is not helpful or that it doesn’t protect,” Lennig said. “Why would we spend so much energy getting these protective orders if we thought they weren’t doing anything?”

Telephone messages seeking comment from Lamdin were not returned.

Chief District Court Judge Ben C. Clyburn, who has received a copy of Lamdin’s letter to O’Malley, removed the judge from hearing active cases two weeks ago, said Maryland Judiciary spokeswoman Terri Bolling.

Lamdin is no stranger to allegations of inappropriate remarks from the bench, having been suspended by Maryland’s top court in 2008 for 30 days without pay for 14 instances of incivility, including calling one defendant “one of the biggest dumb asses I’ve ever seen” and another a “crack head.”

Then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed Lamdin to a 10-year term on the District Court in Baltimore County in October 2002. A graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, he was a partner at Lamdin & Lamdin for 20 years before joining the bench.