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Senator calls for judge's ouster after domestic violence comments

Abusive BehaviorJustice System

A state senator from Baltimore County is pushing to oust a district judge accused this week of mistreating a White Marsh woman who was seeking a restraining order in a domestic violence case.

District Judge Bruce S. Lamdin will not hear any cases until an investigation into his statements is complete, said Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland court system.

"He's an absolute disgrace to the bench," said State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, who said he has had constituents complain to him about Lamdin. "I have tremendous empathy for any of my constituents who are women who've had to appear before him."

Lamdin is up for reappointment to a 10-year term this year, and Brochin said he plans to circulate information about the judge's behavior to members of the committee in charge of reappointing him. Lamdin, 64, did not respond to a request for comment.

According to a court recording in the December case, Lamdin for about 30 minutes repeatedly and sometimes sternly questioned a woman who said her husband struck her, threw her on the floor and stomped on her.

"Ma'am, there are shelters," he told her.

When speaking of the husband during the proceeding, Lamdin said: "Where is he going to live if I put him out of the house?"

Throughout the hearing, Lamdin repeatedly told the woman that she was thinking only of money by staying with her husband. At times, the woman broke into tears.

"You allow money to control your better judgment, because it's the easy way out," Lamdin said.

The woman ultimately won the restraining order, but Lamdin said it amounted to nothing more than a piece of paper and couldn't protect her.

Bolling said Lamdin was ordered to conduct "chambers only" work on Aug. 28. The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which recommended discipline against Lamdin in an unrelated case in 2008, will investigate the incident.

The commission could dismiss the complaint or recommend that the state's highest court issue a punishment as strong as termination.

The Women's Law Center and House of Ruth filed a formal complaint against Lamdin on Tuesday, stemming from the case.

Susan Elgin, board member at the Women's Law Center, said her organization only learned of the case recently, but members were appalled after hearing the recording, noting what they believe is different treatment for men and women in Lamdin's courtroom.

The Woman's Law Center complaint was first reported by WBAL-TV.

This is the third time in six years Lamdin has been accused of mistreating people in his courtroom.

In 2008, the Maryland Court of Appeals suspended him for 30 days after he was accused of disrespectful behavior, including calling one man who appeared before him a "crackhead" and telling a woman with a child in court that he hates kids.

He apologized and, at the time, vowed to reform. His attorney said he was "embarrassed and ashamed" of his actions, but supporters said the judge was merely joking or speaking to parties in the plain English they use themselves.

Later that year, after his reinstatement, he came under fire once again from domestic violence advocates after he refused to order an accused abuser out of a home — saying, "Where is he going to live?" — and made the accuser leave the house. There were no sanctions against him in that case.

Dorothy J. Lennig, attorney at the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic at the House Of Ruth, said Lamdin has a pattern of misbehavior in court, and this case is the most recent example.

"She comes to court scared, really scared," she said. "He had beaten her up and kicked her. She had come to court for help and Judge Lamdin really came after her and berated her."

luke.Broadwater@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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