ANNAPOLIS – Alleging “outrageous behavior” against a domestic violence victim, a women’s rights group said Friday it has filed a complaint with the commission that investigates judicial misconduct against Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge Herman Dawson.
The Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women, which has criticized another state judge on similar grounds in the past, sent the complaint to the Commission on Judicial Disabilities in Crownsville, hoping an investigation will bring sanctions for what it said was a pattern of gender discrimination in Dawson’s courtroom.
The complaint said Dawson has repeatedly discriminated against the victim, Montgomery County resident Susan A. Perry, and her female lawyer while giving preferential treatment to Perry’s ex-husband and his male lawyer in a custody dispute.
Dawson has repeatedly refused to grant a protective order against the ex-husband on behalf of the two children involved, said NOW President Duchy Trachtenberg.
“I feel like he’s totally violated my rights to due process,” said Perry, 34, who filed her own complaint against Dawson with the commission on Wednesday.
The commission “needs to do something so he can’t continue to do this to me or other women who come into his courtroom,” she said.
According to Perry’s complaint, Dawson allowed several temporary protective orders to expire without holding a hearing and called her “foolish” for occasionally appearing in court without her lawyer. Dawson refused to hear testimony from Perry or a social worker regarding an abusive incident between her ex-husband and her son, her complaint said.
Dawson could not be reached for comment. But earlier, he told the Washington Examiner that he would have no comment.
In the past four months, Trachtenberg said Dawson has refused to let Perry testify for the custody of her two children and insisted they be returned to the custody of the father “even though he has violated other protective orders and admitted in court to abusing the child.”
“He has stifled her voice,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s tragic.”
The judicial disabilities commission is prohibited by law from commenting on cases, or even acknowledging that it has received a complaint. But, the commission has in the past reprimanded judges for their behavior toward women from the bench.
In 2000, NOW filed a complaint against Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson after he told the parents of an 11-year-old sexual assault victim that it takes “two to tango.” The commission reprimanded Thompson for the remark but dismissed NOW’s allegations that he displayed repeated misconduct toward female victims.
In 1993, the Women’s Law Center’s complaint brought against Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. for a remark he made during a rape hearing resulted in a commission reprimand as well. If the commission finds evidence of judicial misconduct in this case, the judge may be disciplined in varying degrees ranging from a warning to removal from his position. -30-09