The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities is investigating whether Montgomery County District Judge Henry J. Monahan, who was acquitted in August of charges of breaking into a Hagerstown, Md., house May 3 and assaulting two police officers, is competent to return to his full judicial duties, legal sources said yesterday.
Monahan was found to have had a slight stroke that led to his erratic behavior in the early morning hours after a state judicial conference dinner.
The seven-member commission is appointed by the governor to investigate complaints against judges, issue reprimands and recommend to the Court of Appeals courses of action to take against judges, including censuring them and removing them from office. Members of the commission would not comment on the Monahan case.
The investigation by the commission is apparently being undertaken in response to a request made nearly four months ago by the chief judge of the Maryland District Court system, Robert F. Sweeney, after Monahan's acquittal.
At that time, Sweeney said, "In view of the medical testimony that was evidently submitted at the trial, I think that the public interest requires that the judicial disabilities commission make a determination.
"It is the function of the commission to decide whether a judge, by reason of physical or mental incapacity, is competent to perform his duties."
Hospital records introduced during Monahan's trial showed that his blood alcohol content was 0.228 percent at the time of his arrest; a level of 0.13 percent is grounds for a charge of intoxication in Maryland.
Monahan, who declined a jury trial, was found innocent by retired Judge Edward O. Thomas, who ruled that Monahan was not responsible for his actions because he was suffering at the time from a mental disorder caused by a small stroke.
Since then, Monahan has been working in the District Court in Gaithersburg handling noncontested cases, an assignment made by Sweeney until the commission could review his case.
One source who has seen the letter that the disabilities commission sent to Monahan Nov. 15 recalled that it "said something like, 'At the commission's most recent meeting, it was decided to institute proceedings having to do with the incident of May 3.' "
"It is a totally confidential proceeding," said Baltimore lawyer Nathan Patz, the commission member presiding over the Monahan case.
Monahan's attorney, William J. Rowan III, also would not comment.
Sweeney told the commission a month ago that Monahan's absence from the bench left the district court system one judge short. Monahan continues to come in every day, Sweeney said, and has "asked me to give him more work, but I can't because I have given him all the noncontested work that I have."
There is a backlog of contested cases in Montgomery County, however, and Monahan's forced absence from the bench has contributed to the problem, Sweeney said.