Tempers flared in the courtroom of D.C. Superior Court Judge Joseph M. Ryan recently when Ryan gave a tongue-lashing to a 45-year-old woman who, with her husband, was being sentenced on a drug distribution charge.

Ryan imposed a term of 20 months to five years on the woman under the city's mandatory minimum sentencing statute, saying, "I just wish I could give her more, because in my notes I have her down as a liar and very antipolice and antiestablishment . . . . I have no sympathy for her."

The remarks prompted an outburst from an in-law in the audience, who had to be subdued by police officers.

"I don't think I want any of you drug peddlers or your friends in this courtroom," said Ryan, addressing the defendant's mother-in-law, who also was in the audience.

Ryan retired from the court more than a year ago following a rare public announcement from the D.C. Judicial Disabilities and Tenure Commission that the sometimes fiery judge had been under investigation for "intemperate and injudicious conduct."

The ruckus took courthouse observers by surprise. Ryan, who has been sitting on the court's criminal calendar since his retirement, has toned down his demeanor considerably in the past year, they said.

Ryan recently was appointed as one of two judges to administer a newly created, accelerated felony calendar on the court.