At least four cases handled by a Maryland judge are being challenged after he presided over a series of hearings and did not reveal he was in talks to accept a job in the office of local prosecutors (article available here).
For more than six weeks, according to court documents and recorded proceedings, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton never disclosed he had discussed, negotiated and accepted a position with the State’s Attorney’s Office as chief of the Felony Trial Division. Boynton started that high-ranking job in February, days after retiring from the bench.
One sentencing in question includes the high-profile case of a Magruder High School student who shot and nearly killed another teen in a bathroom. In that hearing, Boynton ruled from the bench as the state attorney himself, his current boss, sat in the front row of the gallery.
Defense attorneys say the way Boynton and McCarthy handled the job switch contradicts Maryland rules designed to promote “public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.”
National experts on judicial ethics also voiced concerns.
“It’s pretty shocking this would happen. I’ve never heard of something like this,” Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who served as the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said in an interview. “He should have recused himself just as soon as he started discussing the job with prosecutors. It’s the only ethically responsible thing to do.”
The Bar Association of Montgomery County, MD which has nearly 2,000 members, said in a statement that it “was not aware of Judge David Boynton’s job discussions with the State’s Attorney’s office or his acceptance of the job.” The local public defender’s office, with 30 attorneys, said it was never told.
The Washington Post could not find any disclosures in court to defense attorneys who came before Boynton after he expressed interest in the job over that time, according to recordings and documents of 18 criminal hearings he held. The matters included five sentencings in which Boynton imposed terms of six to 20 years.