Suspension recommended for Baltimore judge found to yell at staff and neglect paperwork

Baltimore District Court Judge Devy Patterson Russell screamed at fellow judges, intentionally pushed a courthouse staffer and neglected more than 100 search warrants left in boxes and drawers, the state commission that oversees the courts has found.

Russell, a 12-year veteran of the bench, should be suspended immediately for six months, the Commission on Judicial Disabilities recommended last week.


“The comments and behaviors of Judge Russell were undignified, uncooperative, discourteous, demeaning, and clearly demonstrate a pattern of serious violations of the Maryland Code,” the commission members wrote.

Russell’s off-the-bench actions violated state law requiring judges be patient, dignified and courteous, they found.


Any punishment would be handed down by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which will take up the matter at a later date.

The conduct of Baltimore District Judge Devy Russell, investigators say, breaks state laws that require judges be diligent, courteous and promote confidence in the courts.

Russell, 52, a district judge since 2006, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Her attorney, William Brennan Jr., declined to discuss any specific incidents.

“We will mount a vigorous defense,” Brennan said.

In the 26-page recommendation, commission members described a pattern of behavior in which Russell yelled at, chastised and insulted colleagues.

District Court Judge William Dunn returned from lunch last year and found her waiting by the front doors.

“She raised her voice, yelling and screaming at him in front of lawyers, bailiffs and other judges about his departure from the courthouse as duty judge,” commission members wrote.

The members heard from 21 witnesses, including 15 judges, before recommending Russell be suspended. Her outbursts left many courthouse employees feeling on edge, the witnesses said.

Commission members used witness testimony in their report.

“Everybody is walking on eggshells,” District Court Judge Mark Scurti told them.

Nance made such disparaging and demeaning comments during trials two years ago, the commission wrote, that he undermined the integrity of the court.

District Court Judge David Aldouby said the courthouse tension could be felt.

“If I were blindfolded and brought to a building, I could tell you,” he said. “There is a certain chill.”

Barbara Waxman, the district court’s administrative judge, described Russell as “openly hostile at times, rude, intimidating, taking joy when other judges would have negative things said about them in the press.”


District Court Judge Joan Gordon told the commission she had asked Russell to stop some of her behaviors and minutes later Russell hit Gordon’s car with her own. Gordon told the commission that Russell told her the impact was unintentional.

Russell has acknowledged some of her behaviors, but shown no regret, commission members wrote.

“She fails to see herself as the common denominator in these incidents; she blames others and takes no responsibility for her actions,” they wrote.

The commission also found Russell failed to keep up with the administrative work needed to process completed search warrants.

After police conduct a search, they provide the judge an inventory of what was found. Judges are supposed to sign and date these papers and send them off for processing. Russell failed to send off at least 135 warrants and inventories, the members found.

Russell previously served as an assistant attorney general in Maryland. She was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

District Court judges earn about $141,300 a year.

Russell becomes the second city judge found to be unprofessional in about a year.

The chief judge of the Baltimore Circuit Court retired last December before Maryland’s highest court could decide whether to expel him from the bench. Circuit Judge Alfred Nance was found to have a pattern of disparaging and demeaning behavior.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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