Prince George's Judge Is Taken Off Bench

By Ruben Castaneda and Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Prince George's County judge who has been the focus of controversy for a decision in a recent domestic violence case and a voided traffic ticket was temporarily removed from the bench and reassigned to administrative duties yesterday by the state's chief judge of the District Court.

District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo, 67, has faced criticism for dismissing a protective order against a man who three weeks later allegedly set his wife on fire.

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that a Maryland State Police trooper was "counseled" after he deviated from official procedure by writing "VOID" across a speeding ticket he had issued to Palumbo. In a memo to his barracks commander, Trooper Michael Land wrote that he was voiding the ticket he had given to "Judge Palumbo from Prince George's Court."

Land had cited Palumbo for driving 59 mph in a 35-mph zone on Route 193 in the Mitchellville area shortly after noon Feb. 17. The fine for the citation would have been $140.

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, told The Post that troopers are supposed to let their barracks commander decide whether to void a ticket. Shipley said he did not know why Land voided the ticket, and Land did not return a phone call.

Shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Maryland judiciary released this statement: "Effective this afternoon, Judge Richard A. Palumbo has been assigned to administrative chambers duties until further notice. This matter is under review by Chief Judge of the District Court Ben C. Clyburn. It is a personnel matter."

Rita Buettner, a spokeswoman for the judiciary, said she could not comment on the reason that Palumbo was placed on administrative duties.

A source in the legal community said the disclosure of the voided ticket prompted the action. The source asked to remain anonymous because the case is ongoing.

Palumbo's attorney, William C. Brennan, said neither he nor his client had any comment.

Under state law, Clyburn cannot permanently remove a judge from the bench. Judges can be permanently removed by the governor and the state legislature, by the legislature alone or by the state Court of Appeals on the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities.

Palumbo's temporary removal comes two weeks after court officials said he would temporarily not preside over domestic violence cases. Court officials said they did not want Palumbo to become a distraction to people involved in such cases.

Last week, relatives of Yvette Cade, the woman who was badly burned after Palumbo dismissed a protective order against her estranged husband, called for Palumbo to be removed from the bench.

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