Stanley Y. Bennett, the former Frederick County district judge removed from the bench last year for allegedly forging another judge's signature to fix a traffic ticket, yesterday was stripped of his right to practice law by the Maryland Court of Appeals.
In reaching its unanimous decision, the appeals court spurned a plea for leniency by Bennett, who had argued that the loss of his judgeship and "three years of notoriety" were punishment enough.
The disbarment, the court noted in a five-page opinion, was not to punish Bennett, but to protect the reputation "of a profession which should stand free from all suspicion."
Bennett, 50, reached by telephone yesterday, said he had "no immediate plans other than to live here in Frederick." He declined further comment.
The appeals court's action brings to a close an emotionally charged case that rocked the political establishment in Frederick County and still provokes bitter feelings among those touched by the scandal.
Efforts to discipline Bennett are "just a crooked deal. He's a nice man, a good man," said Marion Rice, a Democratic party leader in Frederick, who was accused of asking Bennett in June 1982 to clear a negligent-driving violation from the record of his 16-year-old grandson.
Bennett, the son of a former magistrate and politically influential lawyer, maintained his innocence and claimed he had been "set up" by political enemies who opposed his effort to unseat Frederick Circuit Court Judge William Wenner in the 1982 election.
A Frederick County grand jury investigated the case and did not return any criminal indictments, after calling more than 30 witnesses to testify.
But the state's Judicial Disabilities Commission, which oversees the conduct of judges, concluded that Bennett had forged the signature and recommended his removal.
The Court of Appeals, which has final authority in disciplinary matters involving judges and lawyers, voted unanimously last November to remove Bennett from the bench.
He was only the third judge to be stripped of a judicial appointment for alleged impropriety in 25 years, said Robert C. Franke, chief deputy clerk of the appeals court, and the only one of the three to be disbarred. Three other judges have been censured for improper acts, Franke said.
Yesterday's decision to disbar Bennett was prompted by a recommendation by the state Attorney Grievance Commission, which regulates the conduct of lawyers.