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Baltimore judge retires after facing third disciplinary case

Embattled Baltimore City District Judge Devy Patterson Russell retired Wednesday after being charged in a third disciplinary matter.

Russell, who had been on the bench since 2006, had been serving a six-month suspension since July 1 as a sanction for yelling at fellow judges and court staff. The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities recommended an additional three-month suspension earlier this month and on Wednesday filed a third set of charges accusing Russell of threatening a fellow judge who was a witness in the cases against her.

A hearing will not be held on the most recent charges due to the judge’s voluntary retirement, according to the commission’s website.

“Judge Russell would have strenuously and vigorously contested these most recent charges. She adamantly contends that the charges are without merit and should not have been brought. She is extremely disappointed with the commission – not only for the piling on, but because the charges are brought the day of her mother’s funeral. However, she has moved beyond this stage of her legal career,” said Russell’s attorney,  William C. Brennan Jr., of Brennan, McKenna & Lawlor Chtd. in Greenbelt.

“She has spent the last 28 years in public service for the citizens of Maryland. She believes that her time, talent and abilities are better utilized moving forward by making positive contributions to the community. She thanks all of her many friends, supporters and colleagues who wished her well in her new endeavor,” he added.

In the first matter, Russell was accused of a range of disruptive behavior that “created, over a long period of time, a pervasive, unyielding and serious pattern of disrespectful and blatant disregard for the dignity of Maryland jurists,” according to the unanimous Court of Appeals opinion suspending her, written June 28 by Judge Clayton Greene Jr.

Other judges testified before the commission that Russell berated court clerks and was unprofessional to members of the bench.

The Court of Appeals said in a footnote that Russell had “unrelentingly exhibited a pattern of discourteous and disrespectful behavior” that “taken together … fostered a toxic environment in the District Court.”

She was ordered to submit to an evaluation by health care professionals for a “complete emotional and behavioral assessment” and to comply fully with the recommended treatment.

The second case, brought before the suspension, accused Russell of attempting to manipulate an incident report to cast fellow Judge Katie O’Malley in a bad light.

The commission held a hearing over two days, one in June and one in 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 panel recommended an additional suspension.

The latest charges, dated Aug. 27 but not made public until Wednesday, allege that Russell attended an annual event for the Baltimore County Bar Association on Jan. 31 and “made remarks regarding a fellow judge” who had been a witness in the first case against her and was scheduled to be a witness in the second case.

Russell allegedly “stated that (they) had no idea what was going to happen to (them), and that (they) should fear and be afraid of what was going to happen next,” according to the charges. The judge is not named in the document.

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