A veteran Baltimore District Court judge arrested Wednesday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and charged with carrying a concealed handgun said yesterday that, because of the dangers of his work, he always wears a handgun when he is on the bench. He said he routinely travels with the weapon, for which he has a state permit.
"I'm never without a pistol," said Baltimore District Court Judge Carl W. Bacharach, by telephone from the West Coast.
Bacharach, 64, was put on administrative leave while the charges against him are resolved.
"I must have put 10,000 people in jail," he said. ". . . I have a perfect right to have that pistol."
Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney said yesterday that he knows of up to 20 Maryland judges "who carry a gun in a holster at all times," some of them in district court, where misdemeanor, traffic and other less serious offenses are handled.
He said gun-carrying by judges "disturbs me," but said he has "concluded it's not within my authority to stop them."
Bacharach, who was appointed to the bench in 1962, was charged with the offense after an X-ray machine detected the .22-caliber weapon in his suitcase, Maryland State Police Capt. Edward Clark said. The judge was boarding a Peoples Express flight to Los Angeles to attend his daughter's wedding.
Bacharach was released on his own recognizance and took a later flight.
"I'm very embarrassed about it," said Bacharach in a phone interview from California. He said the gun was packed in a suitcase that was to be checked in the luggage compartment.
Peoples Express passengers at BWI send all their belongings through the security conveyor belt normally reserved for carry-on luggage, and Bacharach's gun was discovered at that point.
Bacharach said that over the years, he has drawn the gun twice to protect himself on the streets of Baltimore, but never in his courtroom.
One Baltimore attorney who asked not to be named described Bacharach yesterday as a "crusty . . . tough, old-school judge."
Sweeney said Bacharach will be given administrative duties when he returns next week from California. "As long as these charges are pending against him, Judge Bacharach will not be assigned to sit in judgement on our citizens," Sweeney said.
If Bacharach is found guilty, Sweeney said, the matter will be taken before the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, a panel that hears cases involving complaints against judges.