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Administrative charges filed against Md. judge who deflated tire

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 16, 2010; B01

Maryland's judicial commission has filed administrative charges against the Charles County judge who deflated the tire of a part-time cleaning woman at the courthouse in August.

In charges filed by the investigative counsel of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley is accused of violating the canon that calls on judges to observe "high standards of conduct" to preserve the integrity and independence of the bench.

The five-page charging document also accuses Nalley, 66, of violating the canon that says judges "shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary."

Nalley faces a public hearing on the charges. The commission can recommend a wide range of sanctions, from a reprimand to suspension to removal from the bench. Maryland's Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, would consider and decide on any recommendation for punishment.

Nalley declined to comment.

In a written response submitted by his attorney, William C. Brennan, Nalley admitted that he deflated the tire of a car parked in a restricted zone outside the Charles County courthouse in La Plata. Nalley used a pen or other sharp device to flatten the tire, according to the charging document.

The car, a 2004 Toyota Corolla, belongs to Jean Washington, 51, who works part time at the courthouse as part of a cleaning crew. Washington has said she parked in the restricted zone because her work shift ends after dark and she otherwise would have to walk alone through an isolated parking lot to get to her car.

Washington declined to comment about the administrative action against Nalley.

Brennan's written response said Nalley "would consent to an appropriate reprimand as determined by the commission."

"Thirty seconds of bad judgment should not destroy over 38 years of distinguished and exemplary service to the county," Brennan said in an interview. The 38 years was a reference to the collective time Nalley has worked as a prosecutor and judge in Charles.

Shortly after the incident, Nalley told a Southern Maryland newspaper that he had deflated Washington's tire and that he had previously used the tactic. Within days, Nalley relinquished his post as chief administrative Circuit Court judge in Charles. He was suspended from presiding over criminal cases but still sits on civil matters.

In October, Nalley pleaded guilty in District Court to tampering with a motor vehicle and was ordered to pay a $500 fine and write a "heartfelt" letter of apology to Washington.

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