Bravo, Washington Post: Shining a Bright Light on Judicial Incompetence in DV Cases


We have a pandemic of judicial incompetence in family courts throughout the United States.  The Center for Judicial Excellence is doing a phenomenal job of removing these judges one judge at a time.  It is arduous work requiring an extensive network of strategic partnerships with a myriad of state and local agencies.  Judges have a level of job security that most people can’t imagine or comprehend.

When Julia Fletcher brought the Washington Post’s editorial, “When Judges Behave Badly” to my attention, I was ecstatic.  The Washington Post has world-class prestige for investigative journalism.  An editorial in their Sunday edition is huge.  Epic.

Update:  Judge Bruce Sewell Lamdin announced his retirement from the bench!

District Court Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn

District Court Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn. . .[sent] an important message to the bench.
Washington Post, editorial

The editorial said:

Advocates for victims of domestic violence said that the exchange [between Judge Bruce Lamdin and a DV survivor] is a textbook case of how women who have been abused are treated as if they did something wrong; of misplaced concern for the alleged batterer (“Where is he going to live if I put him out of the house?”); and of ignorance about the options abused women face (“You can get out of there anytime you want”).  Such behavior provides little encouragement to vulnerable women to see  the courts as the institution that can help protect their safety.  That District Court Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn took the unusual step of ordering Judge Lamdin to conduct “chambers only” work — a decision apparently reached upon listening to the audiotape — sends an important message to the bench.

. . .Judicial confirmation hearings are generally pro-forma affairs; those who are in the best position to flag possible problems with a judge (attorneys, court employees, other members of the bench) keep quiet for fear of angering a judge who likely will get reappointed.  The 2011 incident came to light only after Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) had his staff review the docket, a painstaking process that took months.

I did a quick “Yippee Skippy!” dance and shared the good news.  It didn’t take long for the editorial to go viral on Facebook.  People who listened to the tape of the hearing on the Washington Post’s site were outraged by Judge Bruce Sewell Lamdin’s conduct.

How Did This Happen?

On September 6:

The House of Ruth Maryland [a domestic violence shelter] joined the Women’s Law Center [of Maryland] and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault in filing a Judicial Disabilities Complaint against Baltimore County District Court Judge Bruce Lamdin.

This complaint stems from his horrifying treatment of a domestic violence victim who was seeking a protective order in his courtroom.  During the 30 minutes this woman stood before Judge Lamdin, he berated her, questioned why she didn’t go to shelter, insinuated that her name wasn’t on the deed of her family home because she had no money, accused her of seeing money as more important than the safety of her children, and suggested that a protective order is just a piece of paper that her abuser could shoot her through.

Judge Lamdin is eligible for a 10 year judicial reappointment in October of 2012.  If you think Judge Lamdin shouldn’t be on the bench:

1.) Call the Governor’s Appointments office at:  410-974-2611.

2.) You can also email them to make sure your comments are recorded at gov.appointments@maryland.gov

State Senator Jim Brochin (D-Baltimore)

On September 5, the Baltimore Sun published, “Senator calls for judge’s ouster after domestic violence comments:  Third time in six years Judge Bruce S. Lamdin has come under fire for courtroom actions” written by Luke Broadwater:

“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. . .

The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which recommended discipline against Lamdin in an unrelated case in 2008, will investigate the incident. . .

Susan Elgin

Susan Elgin, board member at the Women’s Law Center, said her organization only learned of the case recently. . .[their] complaint was first reported by WBAL-TV. . .

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.

The WBAL-TV report, “Complaint filed against Baltimore County judge:  Judge Bruce Lamdin removed pending review of domestic  violence case,” by investigative reporter Jayne Miller provided further details in a case that is all too familiar to survivors of domestic violence:

. . .the  33-year-old woman [who recently finished graduate school] went to Lamdin’s courtroom in December seeking protection  from her husband.  She described two incidents that happened in the couple’s White Marsh home that caused her to ask for the husband [who is a military veteran disabled by PTSD] to be removed from the  house.

In a courtroom recording,  the woman said, “On or about Nov. 27, he pinned me to a shelf, busted my arm  open, left a gash in my forearm. He then threw me down on the floor and stomped me in the ribs so hard that I peed my pants.  My oldest, who was 12 years old, got my son and hid in a closet with a hammer and called someone to come get  us.”

“You can get out of there anytime you want,” Lamdin said.

“With what? With what?”  the woman said.

“That’s not my concern.  It’s your concern.  Your whole concern is money,” Lamdin said.

“You can’t feed children  on (inaudible), sir,” the woman said.

“What you’ve done and what you continue to do has been based on what is the economically easy road for you,” Lamdin said.  “If your concern was really the safety of your children and yourself, you’d already be out of there.  But as always, based on your testimony, it comes back to the almighty dollar.  And you can’t afford to.”

. . .”I think what troubles me most is this woman had come to court because she was  really scared,” said Dorothy Lenning, an attorney with the House of Ruth.  “Instead of helping, the judge torments her, harasses her, really tortures her through what should be a really simple process.”

. . .In nearly 40 years, just 11 judges have been referred for removal by the Court of Appeals, and just three have been fired — two in 1973 and the other in 1984.

Separate from the  disciplinary process, Lamdin is up for reappointment in October, which will put his conduct before the state Senate.  Lamdin was appointed to the bench 10 years ago.

It is impossible to listen to the tape of what Judge Lamdin said to the DV survivor without thinking he’s an abusive, arrogant, insensitive, incompetent asshole.  He put her through 30 minutes of pure hell and treated her like a criminal.  He forced her to beg and to submit to endless humiliation before he finally issued the restraining order.

The DV perpetrator must have been ecstatic to witness his prey get brutalized by Judge Lamdin.

It is rare for a domestic violence shelter to support a survivor like the House of Ruth Maryland did in this case.  It is rare to find top attorneys like Susan Elgin and Dorothy J. Lennig to lend their influence and legal muscle to a case.  It is rare for a state senator to conduct an investigation like Sen. Jim Brochin did.  It is rare for local media to engage in investigative journalism.  It is rare for a major newspaper to write a Sunday editorial and support a DV survivor.  And, it is extraordinarily rare for a judge to be subjected to this level of scrutiny.  Will he Judge Lamdin be removed from the bench?  We’ll see.  There are still miles to go on this road, and only three judges have been removed in 40 years.

Katherine Graham

It certainly helps that the Washington Post is shining a bright light on Judge Lamdin’s abuse of power.  The late, great Katherine Graham, who was a DV survivor, owned and operated the Washington Post and established a culture of journalistic integrity.

Fortunately, we still have a newspaper like the Washington Post which steadfastly adheres to their First Amendment duties.  You may be interested in these recent editorial opinions:

Protecting abuse victims in Montgomery County

Gender politics in Congress [VAWA funding]

You can read Mrs. Graham’s story:

Katherine Graham:  Personal History

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7 responses to “Bravo, Washington Post: Shining a Bright Light on Judicial Incompetence in DV Cases

  1. My X abuser took me to court in Montgomery County MD to get a peace order against ME for an email, a single email, that I did not send. I went into the court room with nothing because I had no idea what I had done in those 30 days that would have HIM fearing for his life. Turns out, my ex walks in with a print out of an email that LOOKED like or came from my account. I was able to read it. I chuckled because it was so absurd! I said I didnt write or send that email. The judge looked at my X and asked him to prove why he thought I had sent it. My X pulls out more printed copies of emails I had sent to him 6 months BEFORE. I admitted to sending angry and nasty emails to my abusive X but the judge would not even hear why I sent them. My ex basically lied using my honesty about the past. He was awarded the Peace Order just like that. He left I stayed in the courtroom. I listened to a rape victim ask for an order. The judge said, “Why didn’t you call the police?” When? In the middle of him raping her? He denied the order because the rapist didn’t appear. The next woman was also denied her order. The judge told her, “Just don’t pick up the phone or answer the door.” Really? Why didn’t you tell MU X not open emails from me? Sexist pigs. Now I’ll need to wait 6 months to have the order hidden from public record. My X is possed because I published a book about the abuse (not using his name). It’s available now. He’s telling everyone I wrote it about him and I’m a liar. But he’s finding out that people don’t believe him. They believe me. The Peace Order was just his way to seek revenge. And the judge allowed it. If the judge had allowed me to speak, maybe, just maybe, the order would have been denied. But after reading this, I doubt it.

  2. Earl,

    Wish it was that simple. It is almost impossible to remove a judge in the state of MD ~ only three have been removed in 40 years ~ this is this judge’s third time at the disciplinary rodeo ~ he’s STILL on the bench!!! We should all have that kind of job security, eh?

    Good to hear from you,
    Anne Caroline

  3. Thanks for your comment, Paula. I’m sorry to hear about the litigation abuse you have experienced in Montgomery County. The Washington Post wrote an editorial blasting the courts in Montgomery County too. (The link is at the end of this post.)

    If people fully appreciated how difficult it is to remove an incompetent or corrupt judge, they’d pay WAY more attention when these folks are elected or appointed.

    I wish you brighter days and hope all works out well for you,
    Anne Caroline

  4. As you are close to me, I would very much like to show you some of the evidence I have of corruption in my courts, in my town and county. I know that I am not the only one to suffer from the same or similar things. There is something terribly wrong when police cover up.

  5. Sassy,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to engage in investigative journalism. I rely instead on published reports by professional journalists who have the skill sets and funding to check things out. My recommendation is that you take your evidence to your local newspaper and ask them to investigate ~ that’s their First Amendment duty. Alternatively, you might want to approach the Center for Judicial Excellence mentioned in this post.

    Thank you for your comment. Good luck,
    Anne Caroline

  6. i too am a victim of montgomery county corrupt courts, i was denied a protective order 8 times in that court house in the last 6 years, a man that has 72 cases on case search including attempted murder, assault , battery, ect..and spent 12 years in prison for beating all 3 of his ex wives.., finally a advocate advised me to move to frederick county, and 3 months later my ex calls me at 10 pm (when he had the kids for his visit, ) said i am going to kill you bitch!, for no reason, i wasn’t even speaking to him, i would meet his mother to swap the children at my church…so i went to frederick court house that monday and finally recieved a protective order for 1 year….2 months later back in monkey county(trying to get protection for my two minor children) of course the judge denies my order for the kids, even though CPS sends a fax stating the DEPARTMENT believes the children should not have any contact with there father at this time…i was denied…unbeilevable….before the balif could bring me my papers i left the court room, with my two minor children…and here he comes, my ex charging me, and screaming im going to killl you fing c#nt…at least 50 times…as me and the kids are screaming…and running towards the elevator..he attacks me and he attorney had to pull him off of me…so he violated my order of protection…inside that discusting court house, on camera,…not in a nite club, or a back alley,…there where me and the kids should be protected….few months later in court they only give him unsupervised probation…i had to make a will ..why do i or any one of us have to live in constant fear….long story short…i finally recieved protective order in frederick for the kids…they were getting straight As in school for over a year, i hired a therapist for them they saw for 10 months…and of course he owes me over 50, grant in court ordered child support in monkey county…the corrupt montgomery county courts have wrenched my children away and placed them with there abusive father, ordered me supervised vistis, and called it PAS, parental alienation syndrom..and ordered me to see a phyciatrist…its so corrupt ,he will not let me speak to them…and i havent’ seen them in three months….and another thing ive been a resident in frederick for over 2yrs…and monkey county will not close the custody case, they keep having reviews..i know whole heartedly after researching and researching daily..is it was rigged in favor for him to win, as soon as you mention DV you lose custody, the afcc and other fathers rights groups rigged these cases for the grant money…i have no $ for a attorney, but i do have courage to go and let them know i know it was rigged and my children are in danger daily with him..but they laugh at me, sometimes i wish he would of just killed me…this is by far the worst pain he has ever caused me…
    has this happened to any other mothers in maryland, i am trying to find a advocate or pro bono attorney or reporters..i am all alone fighting this corrupt court house..and i have tons of proof how they hid valid evidence against my abusive ex,..his record was never mentioned in court,..they treat him like a saint there…its sickening…
    praying someone gives me some good advice or directs me with someone that can help…
    god bless and please pray for my children to be safe…
    amelia

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