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‘Judge v. judge’ suit dismissed, but might not be over

One former Baltimore judge’s lawsuit against another former Baltimore judge, over a case decided eight years ago, has been dismissed.

Kenneth Lavon Johnson had sought $700,000 in damages from Clifton J. Gordy, alleging Gordy should not have heard Johnson’s lawsuit against a real estate firm in 2006 because Gordy had a longstanding grudge against Johnson.

The lawsuit was filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, where both were judges, before being transferred to Talbot County. Retired Judge Broughton M. Earnest granted Gordy’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, finding Gordy had absolute immunity because he was performing a judicial act and because the statute of limitations for Johnson to file suit had expired, among other reasons.

“I believe the motions judge got it absolutely right,” Gordy said Friday.

Johnson, however, is not giving up just yet. Court records show his attorney, Derek Challenger, filed a motion for reconsideration Thursday. Challenger, of Smith, Barlow & Challenger LLC in Columbia, did not respond to a call for comment on Friday.

Johnson’s underlying lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleged a real estate firm sold his undeveloped land in Western Maryland for well below market value even as the firm knew of higher land values nearby.

By the time Gordy got the case, another judge had barred Johnson from presenting evidence due to his failure to comply with the defense’s discovery requests.

Gordy ruled that, since Johnson was unable to present evidence due to the discovery sanctions, the defense was entitled to judgment.

“It is likely that another judge faced with the same circumstances as Judge Gordy would have done what Judge Gordy did and granted judgment in favor of the Defendants,” Earnest wrote in dismissing Johnson’s suit on July 16. Johnson’s lawsuit against Gordy claimed judicial malpractice, abuse of process and fraud.

The lawsuit alleges Gordy’s grudge stems from Johnson’s representation of Gordy’s ex-wife in divorce proceedings before Johnson joined the bench in 1982. During the divorce action, Johnson says, he discovered Gordy was having an affair. Gordy has “harbored animosity” toward Johnson ever since, the lawsuit alleges.

Johnson was an associate judge from 1982 until his retirement in 2001. Gordy joined the bench in 1985 and briefly served as chief judge in 2006 before retiring.

The case is Kenneth Johnson v. Clifton J. Gordy, 20C14008643, Baltimore City Circuit Court.