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What would JIRC have done?

This is a case from Maryland. But in light of the recent de-benching of a Southwest Virginia judge by the Supreme Court on a complaint brought by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, one can’t help but wonder what would have been the result here in the Old Dominion.

In November, Scott County J&DR Judge James Michael Shull was removed from the bench for, among other offenses, treating litigants with a lack of respect.

Here’s a case about how a judge treated three lawyers. The full account is available in the Maryland Register, but here’s the short version. The Associated Press, through MSNBC, also has a very quick item online.

Last year in Hagerstown, Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III heard a criminal case. During the hearing, he referred to three African-American public defenders as “the Supremes,” and he stated that the PD’s office should send “an experienced male attorney” to handle the case.

After he was brought up on ethics charges, the judge told the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities that by making this last statement, he sought to protect the three women from “representing a very difficult, streetwise, and manipulative defendant.”

He said he has personally apologized to all three lawyers, offering to recuse himself from their cases, an offer they have not taken. He also accepted responsibility for his action, saying he violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics and should be sanctioned appropriately.

The Maryland commission found the comments to be “undignified and disparaging” and therefore sanctionable. The commission issued a private reprimand to Boone.

But the commission noted that “because Judge Boone’s comments took place on the record, in a public courtroom, they represent a serious lapse in judgment on the part of Judge Boone which warrants this Private Reprimand being made public, as the appropriate sanction.”

“The Commission further intends for this Private Reprimand to serve as a warning that any further such comments or conduct by Judge Boone may result in Charges and possible further discipline,” it concluded.

Boone, 65, has been a judge in Washington County since 1997. He remains on the bench.

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