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Judge retiring after criticism over protective order hearing

A Baltimore County judge informed the Governor recently that he intends to retire this October amid an ongoing investigation as to how he handled a domestic violence case. Reportedly, when a woman came to his court seeking a temporary protective order, he questioned her for about 30 minutes. Some of the judge’s questions implied that the woman was at fault for her husband’s abuse and she stayed in an abusive relationship with him for financial reasons.

The judge did eventually grant the woman a protective order; however, the woman was in tears by the end of the hearing. After finding out about the woman’s experience, advocacy groups and a state senator began calling for the judge’s resignation.

The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which oversees the conduct of Maryland’s judges, has begun an investigation into this incident. Previously, in 2008, this judge served a 30-day suspension for inappropriate behavior in the courtroom. In the meantime, the judge has been re-assigned to administrative duties only and is not conducting hearings in court.

Certainly, those who claim to be victims of domestic violence deserve — and need — to be approached with compassion and sensitivity. Most judges in Maryland probably realize this and do what they can to help these people navigate through the court system without unnecessary emotional trauma. Those judges who do not do so, as this story illustrates, face potential consequences, including the loss of their jobs.

Nevertheless, going to court alone even to get a protective order can be very difficult and intimidating for a victim of domestic violence. No matter how sensitive the court may try to be, the court obviously must be fair to both sides; a judge cannot become an advocate for the person seeking a protective order. A Baltimore County domestic violence lawyer who is sensitive to the emotional needs of victims may offer valuable assistance and support in getting these victims the legal relief and other help they need.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Judge to retire amid complaints about domestic violence case,” Arthur Hirsch, Sept. 11, 2012.

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