Panel rebukes judicial candidates over conduct

An advisory committee on judicial campaign conduct has ruled that a challenger for a seat on the Baltimore County Circuit Court and his four incumbent opponents violated the panel's standards of conduct by posting derogatory messages about each other on Facebook and various Internet sites.

The Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee Inc. found that candidate T. Scott Beckman and a slate of four incumbents known as the Baltimore Sitting Judges Slate — comprising Judges Jan M. Alexander, Sherrie R. Bailey, S. Ann Brobst and John J. Nagle III — violated a standard for "truthfulness and dignity" in campaign communications.

The 16-member voluntary committee received complaints first from Beckman, a lawyer in private practice, then from the judges, in August and September, each accusing the other of posting inflammatory and false material.

The website created by the Sitting Judges about Beckman posted material from his Facebook page that was so raunchy that the judges posted a warning on the first page for those younger than 18 years old. Beckman said a campaign worker for the Sitting Judges had posted derogatory remarks about his qualifications on their Facebook page.

The conduct committee chairwoman, Linda Pierson, said in a news release that this was the first time the panel had decided an issue dealing with campaigning on social media and Internet sites. She said the opinion "makes it clear that the same standards of dignified campaigning apply to campaigning online as apply to campaigning in public."

The committee, established to promote "respect" for the bench, has no official power to impose penalties for violations of its standards of conduct.

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