Judicial restraint

Our view : Court gave a rude judge proper punishment

May 15, 2008

He's been consistently and indiscriminately profane and rude to his Baltimore County courtroom visitors, and Maryland's Court of Appeals has now issued an appropriate sanction. By suspending District Judge Bruce S. Lamdin for 30 days without pay, the state's highest court has given him more than a slap on the wrist and reinforced to judges throughout Maryland that they are expected to conduct themselves with dignity, courtesy and patience.

Since he assumed the bench in 2002, Judge Lamdin has frequently made inappropriate comments and disparaging remarks to defendants and spectators. On occasion, a judge may want to get a point across by being stern or amusing or even using street language, but there are limits. Numerous complaints that Judge Lamdin crossed the line convinced the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities that its harshest disciplinary sanction - a reprimand - was insufficient, and it recommended suspension without pay.

In the first serious disciplinary ruling against a state judge in more than two decades, the Court of Appeals rightly agreed. Drawing a bright line for other judges, the court's opinion listed many of Judge Lamdin's comments that were found to violate the Canons of Judicial Conduct. The court also emphasized the importance of impartiality and integrity as essential to assuring the public that justice is being administered fairly.

New judges in Maryland are required to take a weeklong training course, and experienced judges can enroll in additional courses. The case of Judge Lamdin should be required reading for all.

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