The Lawyer's Lawyer
How far will justices of the Supreme Court of Maryland go to protect their colleagues from the criticism of lawyers appearing before them?
Scenario: Disturbed by a judicial ruling that trampled upon his client's Sixth Amendment right to counsel, a zealous criminal defense lawyer criticized the presiding judge as a "liar" who broke her oath to obey the Constitution, refused to follow the law and "stepped into the shoes" of the prosecutor to derail the defense of a woman falsely accused of armed robbery.
Charged with violating a rule forbidding lawyers from making false statements about judges, or statements with reckless disregard as to their truth, this lawyer questioned whether his own constitutional rights were violated. Interestingly, while the Rules of Professional Conduct may punish lawyers for such criticism, the comments to these rules state that "attorneys are encouraged to continue traditional efforts to defend judges and courts."
Is this an appropriate way to promote public confidence in the judicial system, or textbook content discrimination which runs afoul of the First Amendment?
Issue: To what extent may lawyers criticize the performance of the judges they appear before?
Alleged Violations: Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct 19-301.2(d), 303.3, 308.2(a) and 8.4 (a, c, d).
Argued: May 5, 2023