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Baltimore judge charged with ‘habitual delays’ in warrant processing

A Baltimore City District Court judge has been accused of failing to properly process at least 135 search warrants between 2007 and 2015 and instructing a law clerk to destroy unprocessed warrants in 2016.

Judge Devy Patterson Russell was charged by the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities with failing to carry out her duties, displaying contempt for instructions from supervisors, unprofessional interactions with other judges and court staff and failing to cooperate with investigators during the disciplinary process.

“Judge Russell has shown a consistent failure to perform the duties of her office, behave in a professional manner, or abide by reasonable directives of judges with supervisory authority,” the charges state.

Russell, who has been on the bench since 2006, denied the allegations about her treatment of warrants and said claims about her demeanor and interaction with coworkers and investigators are “conclusory” and do not place her on notice of the alleged misconduct.

The charges, which were filed in January but not made available until Russell responded Wednesday, allege she failed to forward warrants, returns and inventories from executed warrants to the Wabash Avenue courthouse for processing over the course of eight years and did not properly sign or date others.

Issued warrants, if served, are returned to the judge with an inventory and signed by the executing officer, according to the charges. The judge signs and dates the return and matches it with the original signed warrant before sending the package of documents to the courthouse.

But Russell argues in her response that forwarding executed warrants is a “ministerial provision” in a procedural rule that does not impact a judicial proceeding and cannot be sanctionable conduct. She also contends there is no deadline for processing warrants and she was never informed that her practice was contrary to any court policy or procedure.

The unprocessed warrants were in her chambers until 2016 when she provided multiple boxes to a law clerk and instructed the clerk to secretly match and forward them to the proper location, according to the charges. When the clerk had trouble completing the assignment, Russell allegedly instructed her to destroy the remaining documents.

Russell denied instructing anyone to destroy warrants and said she is still in possession of all papers the law clerk could not match up.

She also is accused of failing to “respect the reasonable directives of judges with supervisory authority over her, often expressing contempt for their instructions or attempting to deflect ownership of her responsibilities by pointing out the flaws of other judges.”

During the commission’s investigation investigation, Russell misrepresented her address and refused to accept service of multiple communications from investigators, who then had to hire a private process server.

Russell, in her response, accused investigators of violating her due process rights by refusing to provide her with information when asked, including the identities of anyone who filed a complaints and details about the seizure of the warrants involved.

Russell is represented by Steven D. Silverman and Abigail E. Tisce of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore.

Last week, a Howard County District Court judge was similarly critical of the judicial discipline process in a hearing before the Court of Appeals. Judge Mary C. Reese’s attorney called the process “lawless and arbitrary” without guidance from the state’s top court.


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