CHARLES COUNTY, Md. – The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities found by unanimous vote that Charles County District Court Judge W. Louis Hennessy committed sanctionable conduct following an investigation into him advising criminal defendants incarcerated in St. Mary’s County in 2020.
The order, which authorizes the Executive Counsel of the Commission to refer all findings and recommendations to the Maryland Court of Appeals, was signed by the Commission’s Chair Michael Reed on May 10.
In the detailed 77-page report, the Commission reflected on the process which began years ago after Hennessy advised two of his friends locked up separately on domestic violence charges.
The initial charging documents state that he contacted the first defendant, who was being charged with second-degree assault and violating a protective order and was incarcerated in St. Mary’s County, via telephone on at least 10 occasions. As a result, Judge Hennessy allegedly influenced the defendant’s decision to plead guilty.
Additionally, Judge Hennessy contacted the second defendant, who was being charged with second-degree assault and was also incarcerated in St. Mary’s County, via telephone and in person on at least five occasions. In these calls and meet-ups, Judge Hennessy allegedly provided legal advice and assisted in the defendant’s release from jail.
Other allegations were made throughout the investigation, saying Hennessy contacted law enforcement officers in St. Mary’s County, along with a prosecutor in St. Mary’s on behalf of the defendants. Hennessy’s attorney maintains that “did not happen” and that all findings and recommendations must be “based on what did happen.”
The Commission eventually found that Hennessy violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and has been active enough to be aware of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
“[The] respondent also expressed he sometimes doesn’t know “what’s right or wrong” after 17 years on the bench,” the findings report says.
The report also acknowledges that Hennessy submitted a letter of retirement effective June 30, 2022.
“You don’t have to worry about this becoming an issue again because I’m gone,” Hennessy said to the Commission. “I’ve already submitted my retirement papers — And I’m ready to move on… I would love it if nothing else come out of this – you can suspend me, or fine me, or whatever you might do, but if we could send a clear message to the other members of the judicial system, the judiciary, and the judges, as to precisely what they are asking us to do.”
He would explain how the judicial conference says they should “get involved and do stuff in the community,” only to come back and explain what they did to the Commission.
“I’m not conflicted about what I did in these cases. I’m not ashamed of it,” Hennessy said in his letter. “But I’m very, very conflicted about the information that we’ve been given.”
The recommendation to the Maryland Court of Appeals concludes that although he is retiring, Hennessy should be suspended for three years without pay, with all but nine months suspended, pending his compliance with conditions during that period. It is also recommended that he engage and cooperate with a “mentor judge” upon any return to the bench after his suspension.
Of the Commission, six members were in favor of the provided recommendation, two members were in favor of Hennessy’s removal, and one commission member was in favor of a reprimand.
Read the full findings and recommendations below:
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CHARLES COUNTY, Md. — Judge W. Louis Hennessy is in the middle of an investigation that could lead to sanctionable action because he advised two of his friends locked up separately on domestic violence charges.
The Commission on Judicial Disabilities is charging Judge Hennessy with the following: engaging in improper and inappropriate discussions with at least two criminal defendants, lending the prestige of judicial office, permitting others to convey the impression of judicial influence on behalf of at least two criminal defendants, demonstrating bias against women and victims of domestic violence, and more.
In simpler terms, Judge Hennessy did not comply with the Code of Judicial Conduct and has been active enough to be well aware of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Judge Hennessy has been a judge for the District Court of Maryland for Charles County for over 16 years. For nine months, between May 2020 and early 2021, he knowingly and willingly engaged in misconduct with these defendants.
Charging documents obtained by TheBayNet.com state that he contacted the first defendant, who was being charged with second-degree assault and violating a protective order and was incarcerated in the St. Mary’s County, via telephone on at least 10 occasions. As a result, Judge Hennessy allegedly influenced the defendant’s decision to plead guilty.
Additionally, Judge Hennessy contacted the second defendant, who was being charged with second-degree assault and was also incarcerated in St. Mary’s County, via telephone and in-person on at least five occasions. In these calls and meet-ups, Judge Hennessy allegedly provided legal advice and assisted in the defendant’s release from jail.
As evidence of misconduct, the Commission has presented witness statements, law enforcement body-camera footage, recorded jail calls and related call logs, a summary of relevant cellular records, affidavits, audio recordings of the hearings, and real property information.
In response, Judge Hennessy denies all allegations of misconduct and advisement. However, Judge Hennessy does admit that speaking with a friend about a criminal case was wrong, but he spoke to them as a private citizen rather than a judge.
“Judge Hennessy is an excellent jurist with a heart of gold. Upon careful reflection he acknowledges that he should learn to say no when people reach out for help despite his innate desire to help people,” an attorney for Judge Hennessy said.
Currently, Judge Hennessy is requesting all charges against him be dismissed by the Commission on Judicial Disabilities.
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