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Baltimore judge gets reprimand for contributions, lack of cooperation

The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities has reprimanded Baltimore District Judge Flynn M. Owens for contributing to political candidates and failing to cooperate with disciplinary authorities.

The commission’s written notice of reprimand, to which Owens consented, did not provide any detail regarding the contributions or lack of cooperation.

A search of the Maryland State Board of Elections’ online database of contributors showed that Owens gave $100 via credit card to Thiru Vignarajah’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore City state’s attorney this year. Defense attorney Ivan Bates won the nomination and the general election last month.

Owens also gave $50 by credit card to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2022. Wes Moore won the nomination and the general election.

The board’s database also showed that Owens, who has been on the district court for eight years, made the donations as an “individual.” He listed his employment as “legal” and his employer as the “State of Maryland.”

While not illegal, Owens’ contributions seemed to violate the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct’s  prohibition on judges engaging “in any partisan political activity.”

In addition, Owens’ donation to a campaign for Baltimore state’s attorney appeared to violate the code’s mandate that “a judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary” insofar as the state’s attorney’s office appears regularly before the district court.

Owens, 59, did not immediately return a telephone message Friday seeking comment on the commission’s reprimand.

Owens, then a criminal defense attorney, was appointed to the bench by Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2014.

Owens’ reprimand was first reported by The Baltimore Banner.