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Panel advises adding time to judge’s suspension in 2nd disciplinary matter

A judicial discipline panel on Tuesday recommended an additional three-month suspension for a currently suspended Baltimore City District Court judge.

The Court of Appeals suspended Judge Devy Patterson Russell for six months on July 1 and ordered her to have a “complete emotional and behavioral assessment” as part of her sanction for misconduct that involved a “serious pattern of disrespectful and blatant disregard for the dignity of Maryland jurists.”

While the initial proceedings were pending, investigative counsel for the Commission on Judicial Disabilities filed a new set of charges for a 2015 incident in which, they said, Russell attempted to manipulate a bailiff’s report to cast a fellow judge, Katie O’Malley, in a bad light.

The commission held a hearing over two days in June and August on the new charges and issued findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommended discipline on Tuesday. The commission determined that Russell’s conduct was sanctionable and violated the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct.

The commission referred the case to the Court of Appeals, which must impose any sanction.

Russell’s attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., of Brennan, McKenna & Lawlor Chtd. in Greenbelt, was not available for comment Tuesday evening.

“This case is more than one judge having and voicing a negative opinion of another judge,” the commission concluded. “This matter involved Judge Russell making concerted efforts, outside of normal operations, to embarrass an individual, who happens to be a member of the judiciary, due to personal dislike.”

Baltimore City District Court Administrative Judge Barbara B. Waxman testified in June that Russell did not like O’Malley and that the dislike was “very common knowledge.” Derek Bayne, assistant investigative counsel, said Russell was upset in early March 2015 because O’Malley had been assigned permanent chambers in a courthouse, an assignment based on seniority.

In January 2015, O’Malley, while dealing with a belligerent victim of a domestic assault who used profanity in the courtroom, repeated the woman’s profane words back to her. Waxman testified that Russell told her in January that she had heard about an incident in which O’Malley used profanity on the bench. Waxman said she listened to the audio and determined that O’Malley had been repeating the citizen’s words and that nothing inappropriate had occurred.

In March, Waxman said she became involved again after she learned that Russell had a copy of an amended incident report and was showing it to other judges and accusing O’Malley of using profanity.

The commission concluded that Russell caused the bailiff who wrote the initial report to be pulled from courtroom duty to come to his supervisor’s office to discuss the incident in March 2015, “an unnecessary disruption to the court’s operations,” and improperly influenced the supervisor to have the bailiff change his January 2015 report.

Each of the changes to the initial report “reflect the influence of and the interaction with Judge Russell,” the commission determined. The commission also determined that Russell created the appearance of impropriety when she had the original report amended.

“(Russell’s) interpersonal skills are troubling and her actions with court personnel and colleagues show questionable judgment that has led to a pattern of unnecessary disruption in the courthouse at issue,” the commission found. “It is believed Judge Russell cannot separate personal from professional and that her personal animus toward certain colleagues motivated her.”

Referring to Russell’s “personal vendetta” against O’Malley, the commission determined that a three-month suspension, on top of the initial six-month suspension, was appropriate “given the nature of Judge Russell’s conduct, her prior disciplinary history, and the extent to which it continues to disrupt and denigrate the judiciary, and the public’s confidence in its integrity and dignity.”

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