Legal Ethics

Judge Suspended for Inappropriate, Joking Comments

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Maryland’s highest court has suspended a judge for 30 days because of his vulgar language and inappropriate, joking remarks in the courtroom.

The suspension of Judge Bruce Lamdin of Baltimore County is the harshest punishment given to a Maryland judge in more than two decades, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Lamdin described himself as a “merciless SOB,” joked about circuit court judges drinking cocktails rather than working in the afternoon, and described one defendant as “one of the biggest dumb asses I’ve ever seen,” the opinion said.

Gary Kolb, a lawyer who is executive secretary of the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, told the Sun the decision is “a wake-up call for judges on how they should act.”

The opinion (PDF) by the Maryland Court of Appeals included the remarks that landed the judge in trouble. They included:

• To a defendant who was asked to wait outside in the hallway with her baby: “I got in trouble because I told some lady we confiscate cell phones and we put the cell phones in plastic bags and send them down to Annapolis. I suggested maybe we ought to do the same thing with children except poke holes in the bag.”

• To a defendant accused of speeding: “What’s the big rush to get back to Pennsylvania? It’s an ugly state.”

• To a defendant who requested mercy: “I don’t have any mercy. You haven’t heard about me? I am a merciless SOB.”

• To a lawyer whose client was sent to the lockup for a bad attitude: “Did he get his head out of where he had it inserted earlier today, Mr. Chase?”

• To a defendant accused of driving on a suspended license: “Well Mr. Jones, the hits keep coming. I mean, if there is a pile of shit there you’ll step in it. … So am I doing the taxpayers justice by locking this stupid ass up for additional time or am I just punishing the taxpayers? But is he one of the biggest dumb asses I’ve ever seen? Absolutely.”

• Commenting on a defendant who had not been brought down from the circuit court: “I mean, they don’t work in the afternoon up there. Why is she still up there? … They’re all on their way to have cocktails or something up there at the circuit court. Yeah, they don’t work in the afternoon.”

• Commenting to a mother who wanted her son in a drug court program: “I am not one of those touchy feely judges that goes for programs where everyone holds hands and sings kum ba ah and then they hand out lollipops to each other and gift certificates. … I think jail has a telling effect on some people … especially if they are young and dumb like your son.”

Lamdin had admitted his comments were “over the line” but said they were not mean-spirited, the newspaper article says. “In an attempt to reach criminal defendants with my comments, I talked in language I knew they understood,” he wrote in a letter to the commission.

The Legal Professsion Blog also wrote about the opinion.

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