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Baltimore judge suspended by Maryland Court of Appeals

Posted at 12:28 PM, Jul 01, 2019

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore City judge has been suspended without pay following a review by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Between 2007 and 2015, the Honorable Devy Patterson Russell was found to have improperly handled search warrant materials, to have mistreated court personnel, and do have undermined the authority of a fellow judge, according to the ruling by the state's highest court. The Commission on Judicial Disabilities had previously recommended a six-month suspension for Russell.

In regards to the warrant materials, Russell was found to have handled materials in violation of Maryland Rule 4-601. The rule deals with how warrants are issued, unsealed, and processed. According to the summary of her sanction, Russell also ordered a law clerk to destroy warrant materials.

“In addition, she repeatedly yelled at court clerks and judges,” read the opinion of Judge Clayton Greene Jr., the judicial opinion of Russell’s review. “She subjected court clerks to lineups when clerical mistakes were made, and on one occasion physically pushed a clerk. Judge Russell also repeatedly attempted to undermine the authority of the administrative judge of her court and judges delegated administrative duties.”

Russell’s questionable conduct was well in the state’s legal circles and among those who came through her courtroom. An online petition began in late April after it was discovered Russell’s inaction on the filing of a peace order may have contributed to the death of a man in Glen Burnie.

Tyrique Hudson, a 22-year-old programmer who had relocated to the Baltimore area after graduating from North Carolina A&T, had petitioned for a peace order against a neighbor of his, James Allen Vermobeck, in February. Vermobeck had made threatening gestures to Hudson, but in court Russell said the request “could not meet the required burden of proof,” for the court to issue the peace order.

In April, Vermobeck shot and killed Hudson while the two were in their apartment complex. He was eventually taken into custody following a protracted stand-off.

Not granting the peace order that may have helped Hudson remain alive was not the first instance that drew the ire of the community against Russell. Her pattern of speaking aggressively or condescendingly to those who came into her court room was well known in legal circles.

“Her conduct occurred in the court house and often in public view,” Greene’s opinion summary read. “Furthermore, her conduct had sweeping effects on the courthouse to which she was assigned, fostering an uncomfortable, unprofessional, and tense work environment. Her conduct exhibited a pattern of discourtesy and uncontrollable incivility that had pervasive effects on the administration of justice in the District Court of Maryland and located in Baltimore City.”

The judicial review levied Russell a six-month, unpaid suspension. She may be reinstated at the end of this term depending upon her completion of certain measures set forth by the Maryland Court of Appeals.