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Court of Appeals dismisses pending discipline against judge, without prejudice

Former judge Devy Patterson Russell promised in a filing with the Court of Appeals not to seek a return to the bench as a senior judge or to seek another judicial position.

Russell retired Sept. 25 after being charged in a third disciplinary matter. She was in the middle of serving a minimum six-month suspension and a judicial discipline panel had recommended an additional three months be added to that period.

The additional suspension was before the Court of Appeals for a final determination at the time of Russell’s retirement, when she filed a motion to dismiss the matter, arguing it was moot, according to an order filed by the court on Monday. Investigators for the Commission on Judicial Disabilities opposed the dismissal and suggested the matter be held under consideration in the event Russell sought judicial office again.

Russell declared in her motion to dismiss that she would not seek to be recalled as a senior judge or seek an appointment to another judicial office.

The Court of Appeals, noting that Russell’s ability to hold judicial office would be subject to her fulfillment of the conditions of her suspension and successful reinstatement, dismissed the matter without prejudice, allowing for the possibility of the case being brought again.

Russell, who had been on the bench in Baltimore City District Court since 2006, was investigated and charged three times with various misconduct allegations between 2016 and 2019.

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.

The high court accused Russell of creating a “toxic environment” in the court and ordered her to submit to an evaluation by health care professionals.

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

The latest charges alleged 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 who was scheduled to be a witness in the second case.

The Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure is contemplating amendments to the judicial discipline rules that would allow the high court to place a judge on administrative leave or to suspend a judge without pay during pending disciplinary proceedings. The commission chair, retired Court of Appeals Judge Alan Wilner, said the amendments were driven by the situation in Baltimore regarding Russell.

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