The Washington Post

Judge in Montgomery pays fine in traffic altercation

A Montgomery County district judge was cited for reckless driving Thursday after an investigation into another driver’s claim of road rage that started outside a courthouse and nearly caused a 70 mph collision on Interstate 270 during rush hour, according to police records and officials.

Judge Brian G. Kim, 49, noted in Rockville legal circles for running a tight courtroom, paid a $510 fine Thursday. He declined to comment about the Oct. 18 incident, saying through his attorney that he considered the matter over.

The other driver, Rockville lawyer Rachel Viglianti, reported the incident as it occurred, calling 911 on her cellphone. She submitted a written account to state police investigators three days later.

“I have never feared for my life as I did during this incident,” she wrote. “The driver looked crazed and furious.”

Leonard C. Collins, the recently retired Charles County state’s attorney, was given the case by Montgomery prosecutors who wanted to avoid a conflict of interest. Collins examined her statement, the judge’s statement to investigators and other evidence.

“I concluded that the victim’s version was the credible version,” he said.

It isn’t clear what is next for Kim. Steven Lemmey, investigative council for the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, declined to comment on whether a complaint has been lodged or whether the commission will start an investigation.

Kim presides in District Court, which handles relatively minor crimes compared with the Circuit Court across the street. Viglianti’s office is two blocks away, and her practice involves defending medical malpractice claims. She said she has never appeared before Kim but declined to comment further Thursday.

In her statement to police, Viglianti said the incident began about 5:40 p.m. after she left her parking garage and stopped at a red light. A black Honda CR-V was waiting at her left in a turn-only lane when the light turned green, she wrote.

Both cars went straight and the CR-V pulled in behind her Volkswagen Passat, she said. The CR-V driver tailgated and taunted her, Viglianti said.

The drivers made their way to southbound I-270, with the CR-V following closely and eventually pulling up on the right, according to Viglianti’s statement.

The driver “keeps zooming up beside me, yelling through the windows and gesturing,” she wrote. “He continues to do this while we are traveling on 270S at approximately 70 mph.

“The CR-V’s front bumper is approximately 2 feet in front of mine when he zooms over to left into me and my lane. I slam on the breaks, swerve into the lane to the left of me part way, and slam on the horn. The CR-V was [within] inches of hitting my car and spinning me out of control. I am now behind the CR-V and he immediately slams on the brakes to get me to rear end him. I again have to slam on the brakes and nearly come to a stop on the middle of the highway.”

Viglianti said she called 911 and followed the CR-V, reporting its license plate number. As state police investigated her case, the license plate led to Kim. Viglianti’s description also matched Kim, who has a distinctive crew cut.

On the bench, Kim is known to run a tight ship. Several years ago, he admonished a police officer for arriving late and not taking notes during two traffic stops. In 2006, according to a police account, he ordered a bailiff to confiscate a cellphone from an officer who flipped the phone open before he exited the courtroom.

He also has been known to tell defendants to get their lives together before more serious charges result. “He really wants them to get better. Is he strict? Yes,” said Barry Helfand, Kim’s attorney. “He wants people to listen to him.”

Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.

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