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Judge’s ‘impatient treatment of litigants’ makes her ill-suited for busy courts, commission says

Posted Dec 5, 2013 12:55 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Washington, D.C., superior court judge is being recommended for senior status, with one caveat.

It would be best, according to the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, if Judge Natalia Combs Greene is not appointed to the court hearing landlord-tenant disputes or to other high-volume courts. The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times notes the “rare public rebuke” by the commission.

Greene was praised for her work product, knowledge of the law, and dedication, according to a letter (PDF) written by the chair of the commission, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler. But the commission investigated further, the letter said, after receiving many critical comments from sources about Greene’s “discourteous and impatient treatment of litigants,” especially in landlord-tenant court.

The commission reviewed transcripts and cassette recordings in cases brought to its attention. Greene's demeanor "was oftentimes less than courteous, and on occasion even rude and intimidating; moreover some of her comments during those proceedings were exceedingly inappropriate,” the letter said.

High-volume courts such as the landlord-tenant court can present “enormous challenges,” the letter said. “Despite the frustration a judge may feel, a raised voice, impatient tone, or off-handed remark only makes the situation more stressful and tense for the litigants and more difficult for the judge.”

The letter was addressed to Chief Judge Lee Satterfield of the District of Columbia Superior Court. Greene had requested appointment as a senior judge, and she told the commission she would address the problems if she gets the job.

Greene told the ABA Journal that she did not want to comment on the letter, but she does intend to serve as a senior judge.

Updated on Dec. 9 to include a comment by Greene.

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