Pr. George's Judge Charged With Misconduct

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Maryland's judicial commission has filed misconduct charges against Prince George's County District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo, alleging that he made disparaging statements to and about women seeking protective orders, including a woman who was badly burned in a crime that has drawn national attention.

The complaint says Palumbo violated judicial standards in the case of Yvette Cade, 32, whose request that a protective order be kept in place against her estranged husband was dismissed by the judge in September. Three weeks later, Roger B. Hargave doused Cade with gasoline, struck a match and set her on fire. A Prince George's jury last week convicted Hargrave, 34, of attempted first-degree murder.

The charges against Palumbo mark the first official allegation that he has engaged in a broad pattern of misconduct when considering protective orders in domestic violence cases.

The 11-page complaint, filed by an investigative counsel appointed by the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, said Palumbo "has demonstrated his insensitivity to the needs of such alleged victims and their families through his frequent inappropriate comments during the course of hearings on these cases."

The complaint said that on Aug. 30, Palumbo told Rachel Mitchell, an alleged victim of domestic violence, that if she didn't show up for her next court hearing, he would charge her $750. Twenty-one days earlier, the complaint said, Palumbo allegedly told an indigent woman who asked for a temporary peace order, "Next time, you're going to pay for this."

Palumbo made disparaging comments to and about women in "numerous" domestic violence cases, the complaint alleges. For example, in three cases, Palumbo compared women to buses, it says. The Washington Post has reported that Palumbo said women are like buses, because another one comes along every few minutes.

The complaint also accuses Palumbo of misconduct in connection with two traffic incidents.

William M. Ferris, the commission's special investigative counsel, brought four separate charges against Palumbo in the complaint, which is dated April 24. Under Maryland legal rules, the commission does not have to make allegations public until 30 days after an accused judge is notified of them. Palumbo's attorney provided a copy of the charges to The Washington Post yesterday, after his client had received and read his copy.

The charges are scheduled to be considered by the commission at a public hearing set for Aug. 28 and 29. If the 11-member commission recommends disciplinary action on one or more of the charges, it could suggest a wide range of measures, from a warning or a reprimand to removal from the bench.

Any recommendation for discipline would be considered by the state Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court, which would ultimately decide Palumbo's case.

In response to the complaint, Palumbo's attorney, William C. Brennan, said in a statement: "Judge Palumbo welcomes the opportunity to present all relevant facts to the Commission and to present a full and complete picture of the events and circumstances in this case. However, because this is an ongoing proceeding in a judicial forum, Judge Palumbo will have no further comment at this time."

"He is determined and resolved," Brennan said in an interview. "He's quite anxious that all the facts be properly presented and considered."

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