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Judicial campaign watchdog clears candidate of misleading Prince George’s voters

A judicial campaign watchdog panel has cleared Prince George’s County Circuit Court candidate Ingrid M. Turner of misleading voters about the extent of her support ahead of November’s election, concluding that photographs of sitting judges on her campaign Facebook page convey not their endorsement, as alleged, but merely that they were at the same courthouse event honoring veterans.

 Prince George’s County Administrative Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams registered a complaint in April after seeing her photograph on the Facebook page of judicial candidate Ingrid M. Turner without authorization. The Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee ruled last week that Turner did not mislead voters but warned all candidates for the bench to exercise caution when posting on social media. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)


Prince George’s County Administrative Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams registered a complaint in April after seeing her photograph on the Facebook page of judicial candidate Ingrid M. Turner without authorization. The Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee ruled last week that Turner did not mislead voters but warned all candidates for the bench to exercise caution when posting on social media.
(Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

The Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, though finding no wrongdoing by Turner, warned all candidates for the bench to exercise caution when posting on social media.

Prince George’s County Administrative Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams registered the complaint with the committee in April after seeing her photograph on Turner’s page without authorization. Adams, who is not on the ballot in November, alleged the photograph gave the misleading impression that she endorses Turner’s election in her race to unseat one of four sitting judges standing for election.

The bipartisan committee, which monitors the conduct of judicial candidates, said it reviewed Turner’s site to determine if she violated a standard of campaign communications pertaining to “truthfulness and dignity.” Specifically, the standard requires that candidates “not knowingly make a false or misleading representation about [their] own qualifications, record or experience, or those of any other candidate.”

The committee stated last week that its review found Turner’s site — though “less than a model of clarity” — was not misleading. The photographs contained neither the judges’ names nor any reference that they were supporting Turner’s candidacy for the bench, the panel added.

Rather, the Facebook post containing the photographs stated that “Turner for Judge of the Circuit Court added 22 new photos to the album Veterans Appreciation – In Upper Marlboro, Maryland,” where the the circuit court is located, the committee stated. The post was dated May 22, 2015, and included the message “Thank you veterans and their families,” the panel added in excusing Turner of impropriety.

“[T]hese photographs of the veterans’ event are simply one of a number that the candidate had posted on her Facebook page of various events and individuals that seem to convey nothing more than her attention to, and attendance at, various civil events,” the committee stated in its decision.

“Moreover, the pictures of the veterans’ event contain no reference to any kind of endorsement,” the panel added. “In other portions of the candidate’s Facebook page, she clearly indicates when her candidacy has been endorsed. With no such indication under the veterans’ event photographs, it seems reasonable to conclude that no endorsement is implied.”

The 11-member committee said it would have found Turner in violation of campaign standards had the photographs been superimposed with her campaign logo.

“While we find that Ms. Turner did not violate the MDJCCC’s Standards for the Conduct of Judicial Elections, we caution that the use of social media platforms, including Facebook, in judicial campaigns carries with it the responsibility to be careful about how such advertising or promotion of a campaign may be perceived by others.”

Turner, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former member of the Prince George’s County Council, said Monday that she has “always lived by the highest ethical standards.”

“I have always been about duty, honor and country,” Turner added.

Adams did not return a telephone message seeking comment on the committee’s decision.

Turner is running against sitting judges Dorothy M. Engel, Erik H. Nyce, Karen H. Mason and Herman C. Dawson in the six-person race for four seats on the bench. The other challenger is solo practitioner April T. Ademiluyi.