MSBA Finds Calls for Impeachment of Judge Murdock Inappropriate
~ Reflect a misunderstanding of our system of law~
On January 20, 2006, when Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Brooke Murdock
rendered a decision in Deane and Polyak et al. v. Frank Conaway et al.,
essentially lifting the ban on same-sex marriage, she immediately stayed her
decision pending any appeal, anticipating a strong reaction from the defendants
and their supporters due to the nature of the decision. While most of the media
and public's reaction has been fair and evenhanded, a few individuals over-reacted,
not understanding Maryland's system of law, and called for the impeachment
of Judge Murdock. The Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) reacted and issued
a statement to the press, defending the independence of the judiciary and the
rule of law.
MSBA finds calls for the impeachment of Judge Brooke Murdock inappropriate.
They clearly reflect a misunderstanding of our system of law. "No basis in
fact or law exists to support any suggestion to impeach Judge Murdock for her
recent decision on same-sex marriage," asserts J. Michael Conroy, MSBA President. "Lawsuits
sometimes ask very tough legal questions.
"Judge Murdock performed her job in a professional and judicially appropriate
manner, whether one favors her decision or not. Suggestions of impeachment
are counterproductive to the rule of law and the outstanding legal system at
work daily in our country. Legitimate, healthy debate of the substantive issue
should not include, or be diverted to, ideas of impeachment."
In Deane and Polyak et al. v. Frank Conaway et al. (Baltimore City
Circuit Court, Case No. 24-C-04-005390), 19 Maryland citizen plaintiffs asked
the Court to find a Maryland statute denying marriage licenses to same-sex
couples unconstitutional under the Maryland Declaration of Rights, particularly
the Equal Rights Amendment ratified by Maryland voters in November 1972. "The
question inflames deeply-felt religious, social and personal passions on both
sides of an answer,"
Circuit Judge Brooke Murdock held, "after much study and serious reflection,
this Court holds that Maryland's statutory prohibition against same-sex marriage
cannot withstand this constitutional challenge…because it discriminates
based on gender."
"Judge Murdock was obligated by the oath she swore when she became a judge
to make a legal decision on this tough question when the lawsuit was assigned
to her," emphasizes MSBA's President. "She did not seek the case. The case
was assigned to her. Her first responsibility was to insure that the opposing
parties in the lawsuit had a full and equal opportunity to present to her the
facts and the legal arguments supporting their opposing answer to the question."
"She did so with the courtesy and dignity the American courtroom demands
of its citizens," continues Conroy. "Her responsibility next included analyzing
the facts, research, study and careful consideration of the constitutional
law precedents applicable to those facts. She did so."
Judge Murdock's written decision described the challenge always facing our
independent judiciary – to not be swayed by public opinion: "The Court
is not unaware of the dramatic impact of its ruling, but it must not shy away
from deciding significant legal issues when fairly presented to it for judicial
"Plaintiffs are elated; defendants are disappointed, even infuriated. All
of us, whatever our opinions of the answer, should acknowledge the legal process,
the parties' respect for the rule of law, and the freedom-protecting constitutional
framework in which it was made. And all of us should recognize the importance
of public servants like Judge Murdock who must make hard decisions," proclaims
"The process of judicial decision-making in this country, from our first
Independence Day to this decision, has made our country a beacon of justice
to the world. The process is not perfect, but it is the best process realized
by the collected wisdom of the ages," he adds.
Judge Murdock's answer is not final. The Maryland Court of Appeals will almost
certainly accept certiorari – that is appellate review – of
her decision. "That highest Court in the State will review the factual and
legal record in Judge Murdock's trial court and once again afford the opposing
parties an opportunity to argue their legal positions before the court," stresses
Conroy. "The seven members of the appellate Court will research the law, study
its application to the facts and reach an opinion on this challenging question."
"The majority's decision will be announced in due course. In the end, people
on one side of the question will be elated and, on the other, disappointed," he
declares. "We urge both sides to remember, through their beliefs and passions,
our values and respect for the rule of law, due process and the ongoing challenge
of balancing conflicting freedoms. Most importantly, we remember and respect
the dedicated and independent judges who work to protect those cherished values."