Judicial Disqualification in Maryland
Pursuant to Article IV of Maryland’s Constitution, no Maryland judge is permitted to sit in any case in which he is interested or has been of counsel in the case; or in which any of the parties are connected with him by affinity or consanguinity within such degree as may be prescribed by law. Parties seeking to disqualify judges within Maryland often invoke Canon 3 of the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct. In addition, Rule 2 of the Maryland Rules of Judicial Ethics – which provides, inter alia, that “[a] judge shall not exercise his duties with respect to any matter in which a near relative by blood or marriage is a party, has an interest, or appears as a lawyer” – may also provide a basis for judicial disqualification in certain circumstances.
Maryland has also adopted a number of court rules that may implicate the subject of judicial disqualification in discrete circumstances. Under Maryland Rule 4-243(c)(5), for example, a judge – having once been asked to disqualify himself from presiding over a criminal proceeding – is not permitted to decide the merits of the matter if he has previously heard damaging facts made in connection with a withdrawn guilty plea. Other Maryland court rules that may have relevance to questions of judicial disqualification are Rule 3-505 (pg.47), of the Maryland Rules of Court, which provides a mechanism for a party who believes that an impartial trial cannot be had to seek reassignment of a judge and Rule 4-406(b) (pg.97), which provides that a judge who presides at a trial may not thereafter decide a petitioner’s post-conviction case without his consent.
1. To review the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct click here.
2. A “hot topic” in judicial ethics law involves the question of when a judge must restrict his or her use of Facebook, Twitter, Linked In or other social networking sites, or face recusal for a possible appearance of impropriety. For a recent (2012) Maryland Ethics Opinion on point click here. For an article discussing the Maryland Opinion, as well as opinions on the same subject in other jurisdictions, click here
3. For a comprehensive overview of recusal and disqualification law in Maryland which is updated annually see Flamm, R., Judicial Disqualification: Recusal and Disqualification of Judges, § 28.22. See also Regan v. State Bd. of Chiropractic Exam’rs, 355 Md. 397, 412, 735 A.2d 991 (Md. App. 1999) citing Richard E. Flamm, Judicial Disqualification, § 30.5.4 (1996). To locate Maryland libraries that have the current edition of Judicial Disqualification click here.