A Maryland State Police trooper was "counseled" this year after he deviated from official procedure by voiding a speeding ticket he'd written for Richard A. Palumbo, the Prince George's County judge facing criticism for dismissing a protective order against a man who three weeks later allegedly set his wife on fire.
At 12:15 p.m. Feb. 17, Trooper Michael Land cited Palumbo for driving 59 mph in a 35 mph zone on Route 193 in the Mitchellville area, according to a copy of the citation. The same day, Land wrote "VOID" across the ticket.
In a brief memo to the lieutenant who ran the Forestville barracks he was assigned to, Land wrote, "On 02/17/04 [sic] the listed citation was issued to Judge Palumbo from Prince George's Court. Please void citation. Thanks for your consideration in this matter."
The fine for the ticket would have been $140.
Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the state police, said yesterday that troopers are not supposed to void traffic tickets on their own. State police procedure calls for troopers to bring citations they want to void to the lieutenant in charge of their barracks so the lieutenant can make the decision, Shipley said.
"I don't have an explanation for why this was voided, other than that the trooper made that decision and voided the citation himself," Shipley said.
Shipley said Land was "counseled concerning this issue, and he was subsequently monitored to make sure this didn't happen again." He said he did not know why Land noted in his memo that Palumbo is a judge.
Land later was transferred at his request and now is an investigator, Shipley said.
Neither Land nor Palumbo returned phone calls yesterday. Palumbo's attorney, William C. Brennan, declined to comment.
Fewer than 0.5 percent of the 1.2 million traffic citations that Maryland law enforcement officers write annually are voided, said Rita Buettner, a spokeswoman for the District Court.
It would be a serious ethical breach for a judge to use his position to get out of a traffic ticket, said Robert Condlin, a law professor who teaches ethics at the University of Maryland School of Law.
"A judge should be like any other citizen who gets a citation. He should go to court and explain it to the judge," Condlin said.
Staff writers Ann E. Marimow and Joshua Partlow contributed to this report.