Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Eastern Shore judge on leave is subject of investigation

An Eastern Shore judge on paid leave is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell is on paid leave for undisclosed reasons.

“Our office is aware that the judge is under investigation,” said Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan.

Ricci did not respond to questions about the subject of the investigation nor the agencies involved.

An attempt to reach Newell was unsuccessful. Newell also removed his social media accounts sometime Wednesday.

Ricci said Newell has not resigned. A spokesman for the Judiciary referred comments about possible resignation to the governor’s office.

Jonathan Newell

Jonathan Newell

Ricci said the governor could only intervene in cases where a judge is convicted of a crime, constitutionally impeached or if the General Assembly passes a resolution calling for removal.

Newell previously served as Caroline County state’s attorney for 13 years before Hogan named him to the bench in July 2016.

At the time of his appointment, Newell became the focus of some criticism for posts on a website frequented by gun rights groups. In some posts, he boasted about his connections to Annapolis in tracking issues related to firearms as well as his attendance at gun rights rallies outside the State House.

In other posts, he used his official state’s attorney email to solicit comments and testimony in favors of a Sunday hunting bill.

In other posts, he discussed a nascent candidacy for Caroline County Circuit Court challenging incumbent Judge Karen A. Murphy Jensen before Murphy Jensen retired and he was appointed by Hogan. He spoke of his strong advocacy for Second Amendment rights, membership in the National Rifle Association and his belief that the ACLU should have its tax-exempt status revoked.

Critics said the posts should have disqualified him from being appointed to the bench.

The judge is an avid hunter and posted numerous photos on his Facebook page of family and friends on hunting trips, duck hunting trips and owns property in Dorchester County, according to state land records.

Over the weekend, Newell became the subject of speculation circulating on an email service for defense attorneys in Maryland related to a criminal investigation involving his home in Caroline County and another property in Dorchester County.

Most law enforcement agencies contacted for this story declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. Dorchester County State’s Attorney William Jones, in an email also declined to confirm or deny an investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, when asked about Newell, said the “case was handled by Maryland State police.”

A spokeswoman for the state police declined to confirm or deny an investigation.

Bradley Tanner, a spokesman for the Judiciary said Newell was on paid leave through the end of next week and not hearing cases. He declined to say if the leave was previously scheduled citing personnel reasons.

Judge Brett W. Wilson, who is the administrative judge for the circuit that includes Dorchester County, is filling in for Newell.