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Judge to retire amid complaints about domestic violence case

Abusive BehaviorJustice SystemMartin O'Malley

A Baltimore County district judge who has been under fire for his handling of a domestic violence case plans to retire next month, a spokesman for the Maryland court system said Tuesday.

Judge Bruce S. Lamdin, 64, was removed in August from hearing cases pending an investigation of his remarks to a White Marsh woman during a court hearing last December. On Tuesday, he submitted a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley saying he plans to step down Oct. 1, according to Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland court system.

A district court judge since Oct. 2002, Lamdin was in line for reappointment to a 10-year term this year. He had been assigned to administrative "chambers only" work Aug. 28 by District Court Chief Judge Ben Clyburn, Bolling said.

The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities planned to pursue an investigation of his actions in the case of a woman who had appeared before Lamdin for a protective order, claiming her husband had beaten her.

Court records show that Heather Myrick-Vendetti appeared before Lamdin in early December claiming abuse by her husband, Roland Wright Jr., 28, and asking for a protective order. A court recording of the hearing shows that Lamdin questioned the woman for about 30 minutes, suggesting she could go to a shelter, wondering aloud where her husband would live if he were to be barred from the house, and saying she was staying with her husband for financial reasons.

"You allow money to control your better judgment, because it's the easy way out," said Lamdin. He did grant a temporary protective order, which became final a week later.

Lamdin, who was suspended by the Maryland Court of Appeals for 30 days in 2008 for his courtroom behavior, could not be reached for comment for this article. The state senator and the women's advocates who complained about what they considered Lamdin's abusive questions and comments in the December case said they were satisfied with his departure from the court.

"I just think it's very good for the women of Baltimore County," said Sen. Jim Brochin, who said he had received about six complaints about Lamdin over the last two years from both lawyers and petitioners who appeared before him. He said early this year he sent a recording of the December hearing to women's advocates.

"We need people on the bench that are sensitive to domestic violence," said Brochin, a Towson-area Democrat.

Susan Elgin, a board member of the Women's Law Center of Maryland, Inc., said Lamdin's hasty departure "shows how serious his actions were, how inappropriate and nonjudicial his actions were."

Elgin, whose organization, along with the House of Ruth in Baltimore, filed a formal complaint against Lamdin last week, said "it was horrible how he treated" Myrick-Vendetti.

Dorothy J. Lennig, director of the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic at the House of Ruth, called Lamdin's remarks to the woman "shockingly harsh." She said she's heard many recordings of hearings in domestic violence cases, and she found Lamdin's behavior "way beyond what is acceptable."

Although Lamdin ultimately did grant the woman's request for a protective order, "he tortured her for 30 minutes," said Elgin. "He makes every mistake possible in dealing with a victim of domestic violence. … She was crying. It's terrible to listen to the tape."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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