The Maryland Court of Appeals has censured Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Cullen Hormes, who failed to report on financial disclosure statements that he had taken a $2,000 interest-free loan from a bail bondsman.
The state's Commission on Judicial Disabilities last September issued a report calling for censure of Hormes and labeling his actions "imprudent, ill-considered and improper." The report said that Hormes, in accepting the loan and failing to list it on his 1978 and 1979 judicial disclosure statements, had violated several ethical standards.
The state's highest court, which could have done anything from dismissing the case to ordering Hormes' removal from the bench, issued an order Tuesday censuring the judge. The action amounts to a public reprimand but carries no penalty for Hormes.
In its order, the appeals court noted that no one had accused Hormes of violating any criminal statute.
The commission's September report made the same point. "It is not illegal to accept an interest-free loan from a bailsman, but a judge's borrowing from a bailsman casts suspicion on the judge and the administration of justice," the commission said.
After the commission called for censure last September, Hormes said he had "done nothing wrong. It was a personal matter, and I saw it as a personal loan."
Hormes, 68, borrowed the money from bondsman Lee L. Smith in February 1980 to help pay overdue taxes, court records showed. Hormes returned the money in June 1981. After the commission began its inquiry, Hormes amended his disclosure statements to reveal the loan, the appeals court opinion said.