1. PURPOSE OF THE COMMISSION.
The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities (“Commission”) was established by Constitutional Amendment in 1966 in response to a growing need for an independent body to assist in monitoring the conduct of Maryland judges and justices. Subsequent Constitutional Amendments strengthened the Commission, clarified its powers, and added 4 additional members of the public to the Commission. The Constitution requires the Supreme Court of Maryland to adopt rules for the implementation and enforcement of the Commission’s powers and the practice and procedures before the Commission.
The Maryland Constitution gives the Commission the following specific powers to:
investigate complaints against any judge or justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland, Appellate Court of Maryland, Circuit Courts, District Courts, or Orphans’ Courts.
“Conduct hearings concerning such complaints, administer oaths and affirmations, issue process to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence, and require persons to testify and produce evidence by granting them immunity from prosecution or from penalty or forfeiture.”
“issue a reprimand.”
- “recommend to the Supreme Court of Maryland the removal, censure, or other appropriate disciplining of a judge or, in an appropriate case, retirement.”
Further, the Maryland Rules give the Commission the authority to dismiss complaints (with or without a letter of cautionary advice), issue a reprimand and enter into conditional diversion agreements.
2. STRUCTURE OF THE COMMISSION.
The Commission has a “two-tier” structure in which complaints against judges are investigated by the Commission’s Investigative Counsel and brought to the Judicial Inquiry Board (“Board”) and/or the Commission Members, depending on Investigative Counsel’s recommendations after concluding the investigations.
The Commission Members consist of 11 persons appointed by the Governor of Maryland, by and with the advice and consent of the State Senate:
- 3 judges (1 appellate judge, 1 circuit court judge, 1 district court judge)
- 3 lawyers, each admitted to the Maryland bar and so engaged for at least 7 years
- 5 public members, none of whom is a lawyer or active or retired judge.
The term of office of each Commission Member is 4 years, plus possible reappointment for an additional term, with a maximum total of 10 years if appointed to fill a vacancy.
The Board consists of 7 persons: 2 judges, 2 lawyers, and 3 public members who are not lawyers or judges. Each Board Member is appointed by the Supreme Court of Maryland for staggered terms.
3. MATTERS OUTSIDE COMMISSION’S AUTHORITY.
The Commission has no authority to investigate complaints against masters, examiners, administrative law judges, Federal Judges, lawyers, police, court personnel, State’s Attorneys, or public defenders. The Commission does not have appellate authority and therefore cannot review, reverse, or modify a legal decision or other court action taken by a judge. The Commission cannot affect the progress or outcome of a case. The Commission cannot require a judge's recusal or disqualify a judge from presiding over a particular case.