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Judge accused of having defendant shocked is barred from hearing cases

Maryland’s top court took the rare step of barring a retired Charles County judge from hearing cases less than a month after it was reported he ordered court security to use an electrical shock on a defendant in his courtroom.

Judge Robert C. Nalley retired from the bench last September after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 but has been hearing cases by special assignment since December.

Last month, journalist Ruben Castaneda reported that Nalley ordered a sheriff’s deputy to activate the electronic shock cuff on the leg of Delvon L. King, who was representing himself on gun charges.

King was trying cite a court case to challenge the court’s jurisdiction over him. Nalley told him to stop. When King kept talking, Nalley told the deputy “do it … use it” — that is, activate the shock cuff, according to Castaneda.

King “crumpled to the ground in agony,” according to Castaneda, who reported the court transcript says “(DEFENDANT SCREAMS)” at the moment of the shock.

Angelita Plemmer Williams, a spokeswoman for the Judiciary, declined to comment when asked if the Court of Appeals action was in direct response to the incident involving King. She also declined to comment when asked if the judges on the top court had spoken to Nalley prior to issuing the order.

“The order speaks for itself,” Plemmer said.

The one-page order from the Court of Appeals removing Nalley from the bench is dated Friday, Sept. 5.

Nalley was one of 150 retired judges approved by the Court of Appeals to hear cases in various courts throughout Maryland during 2014. Nalley was approved to hear cases in the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes the circuit courts in Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties, as well as any Maryland District Court.

Gary J. Kolb, executive secretary of the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which investigates judicial misconduct, said he could not recall the top court taking similar action against a retired judge.

“It’s excellent they are looking at their list and, if they have any questions about people on the list, they are taking action,” he said.

Kolb, citing commission policy, could not say whether an investigation of Nalley was underway or completed in connection with the shock-cuff incident, which took place July 23.

Nalley was about to preside over jury selection in King’s case, although he was not scheduled to do so. Williams, the Judiciary spokesman, has said Administrative Judge Amy Bragunier asked Nalley on July 22 if he would handle jury selection because she had a number of cases on her docket the following day.

Nothing in the court transcript indicated King was acting in a threatening manner, or that Nalley ever attempted to cite him for contempt, according to Castaneda.

After the shock, King’s trial began on schedule. He was found guilty on all three weapons charges and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 24, according to court records.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident and found both Nalley and the deputy acted appropriately. However, Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe called for Nalley’s removal from the bench.

“What the Court of Appeals did was most appropriate,” DeWolfe said Wednesday.

DeWolfe said his office would ask King if he wants representation at his sentencing hearing.

“He would probably have a good argument for a new trial,” DeWolfe said. “I would think [the electrical shock] would have a chilling effect on his representing himself.”

Nalley previously was suspended five days without pay in the summer of 2010 for deflating the tire of a cleaning woman’s car that was parked in “his” space outside the La Plata courthouse. He also stepped down from his leadership post as administrative judge.

Nalley told the Commission on Judicial Disabilities in that case that he was “irritated and acted harshly” and called his actions “a failure of judgment.”

About Danny Jacobs

Danny Jacobs is the legal editor at The Daily Record. He previously covered trial courts at the state and local levels and served as web editor.