Judge Boone ordered to take daily Breathalyzer tests

Agreement is condition of private reprimand following DUI plea

January 25, 2011|DON AINES |

HAGERSTOWN — After pleading guilty last year to a drunken driving charge, Washington County Circuit Court Judge W. Kennedy Boone III recently began complying with an unusual sanction: taking a daily Breathalyzer test before hearing cases on the bench.

"The sanctions are completely appropriate," Boone said Tuesday of a private reprimand issued by the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities on Jan. 17. "It's something I was prepared to do so it's not a problem .... I actually voluntarily started last week."

Boone, 68, a circuit court judge since 1997, was arrested by Hagerstown police on Nov. 5, 2009, following a two-vehicle accident on Prospect Street. The judge had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent, more than twice the 0.08 percent legal limit for intoxication, according to court documents.

Boone pleaded guilty in district court to driving under the influence on March 17, 2010, and was sentenced to three years of probation and a $1,000 fine.

"It's been in the mill. I went down there and met with (the Judicial Inquiry Board) in September ... and as a result, I agreed to the recommendations that they made in order to dispose of the complaint."

Boone, his attorney, and the Commission on Judicial Disabilities investigative counsel presented information to the Judicial Inquiry Board in September, according to the private reprimand issued this month.

"Investigative Counsel proposed and Judge Boone agreed that the case will be resolved through the issuance of this Private Reprimand, that will be made public," the reprimand said.

Under a Deferred Discipline Agreement, Boone has agreed to "attend at least five Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week, that he abstain entirely from alcohol, that he arrange and pay for daily breathalyzer tests prior to his going on the bench, and that Judge Boone work with a Commission designated Monitor or Review Judge."

Cynthia Gray, the executive director of the Center for Judicial Ethics of the American Judicature Society in Chicago, said she has not heard of a Breathalyzer requirement in a judicial disciplinary case before.

"Before going on the bench? No, but the conditions in a discipline case are not always disclosed," Gray said.

Gray e-mailed summaries of two 2006 cases in which judges in Louisiana and New Mexico were required to undergo random testing as part of disciplinary actions arising from alcohol abuse. Nine judges were publicly sanctioned in 2010 in the United States for driving while intoxicated, according to Gray.

Boone said he purchased two Breathalyzers, and the tests are administered by a bailiff or deputy sheriff before he takes the bench.

"I started keeping a log when I found out this thing was finally going to be official," Boone said.

"The ones I got cost about $60," Boone said of the Breathalyzers.

Boone's attorney when the plea was entered, John R. Salvatore, said the judge was attending five AA meetings a week at that time.

Following Boone's arrest, county Administrative Judge John H. McDowell assigned his criminal dockets to other judges while his case was pending. McDowell placed Boone back in the regular rotation of judges after he entered his plea.

Since his reinstatement, Boone said he has heard driving under the influence and other alcohol-related cases.

"It was understood that if anyone felt uncomfortable, I'd recuse myself," Boone said. No one has asked that he recuse himself from a case because of his conviction, he said.

Boone said the sanctions are subject to modification, but he is prepared to deal with them as long as he is on the bench. The mandatory retirement age for judges is 70, a milestone he will reach in March 2012, he said.

After he reaches retirement age, however, he could remain on the bench until a replacement is selected and, after that, serve as a retired judge, he said.

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