Rhonda Pearlman is a judge in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. She was the legal liaison for all major criminal investigations on the show and later worked closely with the Major Crimes Unit. In 2004, she began a personal relationship with Cedric Daniels.
As a leading Assistant State's Attorney in the narcotics division, Pearlman has been a guiding legal presence through all of the wiretap detail's investigations. A stickler for process, Pearlman's grasp of the nuance of surveillance law and the legalities of complex casework proves invaluable to the investigations of both the Barksdales and Frank Sobotka. However, like everyone else with her eye on office politics and the next promotion, she is often worried about the political implications of the casework. A tough prosecutor, she once had a soft spot for Jimmy McNulty, leading to an on-again-off-again affair that was eventually discovered by McNulty's wife - and ultimately led to the dissolution of the marriage. Although McNulty was honest enough to give Pearlman no hint of a future together, he still felt comfortable enough to show up on her doorstep every now and then. This ended, of course, when her relationship with Daniels began. She was promoted to Assistant State's Attorney in charge of the Narcotics Unit.
After the Barksdale Detail was established, she became their legal liaison and assisted Lieutenant Cedric Daniels in building a case against the Barksdale Organization. At the initial detail meeting, she informed them to bring all narcotics information to her and all homicide information to ASA Ilene Nathan in the Violent Crimes Unit. ("The Target")
She appears telling Daniels to "make lemonade" with the lack of quality police he has been given and appears as the liaison between the detail and judge Daniel Phelan on legal matters. She approves the unit's level of "exhaustion" in need of a wiretap that helps them make a case against Avon Barksdale. Throughout the season, she has a sexual relationship with McNulty. When Detective Lester Freamon begins trailing the money in the organization, several developers and politicians are implicated and Pearlman's boss Steven Demper becomes interested in the case. As the SA for Baltimore City Demper is more interested in his elected position than quality prosecutions and threatens her job. When Barksdale's nephew D'Angelo is arrested for drug possession, she and McNulty try to squeeze him into a witness protection program. The attempt fails when his mother intervenes and Avon Barksdale, the organization's kingpin gets a lighter prison sentence.
Pearlman kept her relationship going with Jimmy McNulty but was not as involved with an investigation run by Daniels due to the lack of drug cases. As McNulty is attempting to rebuild his marriage and cope with the marine unit (a unit Major Rawls knew he would hate), he and Pearlman end their relationship. When Daniels' detail, now a permanent unit investigates the dock activity occurring between Frank Sobotka and The Greek, Pearlman sees the opportunity for prosecuting a large scale operation importing Narcotics. The detail, along with the FBI, manages to arrest Sobotka and other drug dealers connected to the Greek's operation and Pearlman tries to negotiate testimony from Frank Sobotka and an Eastside Drug Dealer named "White Mike" based on their cooperation with the FBI and BPD. The case hits a dead end when the Greek's inside man in the FBI, Ernst Koutris, leaks information leading to the execution of Frank Sobotka.
Pearlman is the first to notice Lieutenant Daniels is living in the detail office having separated from his wife. McNulty and Detective Kima Greggs get information pertaining to Proposition Joe and Stringer Bell co-operating in the drug trade. A wire is set up that yields little evidence until Prop Joe's nephew Cheese talks about a murdered "dog" over the phone. Thinking the "dog" is a drug dealer, an arrest is made where the detail is disappointed to learn the "dog" was actually a Pitbull. The wiretap is disconnected and later that night, Daniels and Pearlman go to his new apartment after comiserating at a bar and have sex, beginning a relationship that continues throughout the season. Cedric however is skeptical about making their relationship public as he is still appearing as Marla's husband in order to help promote her bid for city council. Daniels claims that it will look bad for Marla's political career for him to be seen separated from her with a white woman.
The detail is now chasing drug dealers tied to murders, a task that annoys McNulty. In the meantime, Pearlman writes a letter recommending no parole to Avon Barksdale who is nevertheless granted parole due to MCI support. When McNulty links some murders to Stringer Bell, the detail changes targets. When targeting Bell, they see disposable cell phones are being used and Pearlman and Daniels go to the wireless provider and find legal trouble getting a timely wiretap. Pearlman is unable to get any wires signed off even after threatening the wireless company and then relies on Daniels to use his FBI connections to get a wiretap. The day that get a wiretap Stringer Bell is murdered but evidence from Bell is presented to the detail at the hands of Major Colvin. The information sources Avon Barksdale's safehouse where Pearlman then signs off a search warrant allowing the arrest of several organization members. After the arrest, Daniels is promoted to Major and he and Pearlman celebrate that evening.
With Daniels as Major, Freamon is the guiding force behind the Major Case Unit and manages to tie evidence from the Barksdale money train to several politicians and developers who are on good terms with mayor Clarence Royce. Pearlman is reluctant to sign off the subpoenas as she feels she'll be demoted to reviewing misdeamoners or bail reviews for allowing subpoenas that would interfere with the election from her boss Steven Demper. She is also worried about Rupert Bond, an African American candidate for State's Attorney winning the election whom she fears will "bump the white girl" to a demoted position due to her race in majority African American Baltimore. The subpoenas are served and delayed by Burrell and Rawls who then put Lieutenant Charles Marimow in charge of Major Crimes to obstruct Freamon. Demper loses the election and Pearlman is promoted to deputy chief prosecutor in charge of violent crimes. She is valued for her courage by the newly elected Rupert Bond who is more interested in good prosecutions than his predecessor. Her first case in VCU begins with numerous bodies found in vacant houses.
After more than a year of investigation the Major Crimes Unit has failed to bring a case against Marlo Stanfield for the vacant house murders. Pearlman is dismayed when the investigation, and the unit, are shut down because of funding issues. The unit has also been building a corruption case against Senator Clay Davis which is also jeopardized. Along with her domestic partner Cedric Daniels she appeals to State's Attorney Rupert Bond to discuss the problem with Mayor Tommy Carcetti. Despite their efforts the Stanfield investigation is still closed down but Pearlman is allowed to keep detectives Leander Sydnor and Lester Freamon to prepare the Davis case.
|Season 1 appearances|
|"The Target"||"The Detail"||"The Buys"||"Old Cases"||"The Pager"|
|The Wire"||"One Arrest"||"Lessons"||"Game Day"||"The Cost"|
|"The Hunt"||"Cleaning Up"||"Sentencing"|
|Season 2 appearances|
|"Ebb Tide"||"Collateral Damage"||"Hot Shots"||"Hard Cases"||"Undertow"|
|"All Prologue"||"Backwash"||"Duck and Cover"||"Stray Rounds"||"Storm Warnings"|
|"Bad Dreams"||"Port in a Storm"|
|Season 3 appearances|
|"Time after Time"||"All Due Respect"||"Dead Soldiers"||"Amsterdam"||"Straight and True"|
|"Homecoming"||"Back Burners"||"Moral Midgetry"||"Slapstick"||"Reformation"|
|"Middle Ground"||"Mission Accomplished"|
|Season 4 appearances|
|"Boys of Summer"||"Soft Eyes"||"Home Rooms"||"Refugees"||"Alliances"|
|"Margin of Error"||"Unto Others"||"Corner Boys"||"Know Your Place"||"Misgivings"|
|"A New Day"||"That's Got His Own"||"Final Grades"|
|Season 5 appearances|
|"More with Less"||"Unconfirmed Reports"||"Not for Attribution"||"Transitions"||"React Quotes"|
|"The Dickensian Aspect"||"Took"||"Clarifications"||"Late Editions"||"–30–"|
According to an interview with David Simon, Pearlman's character is supposedly Jewish though no details on the show confirm this. It is also stated in that interview that her character provides the opposite qualities of key Barksdale attorney Maurice Levy, the show's other most regular Jewish character who plays the role of an amoral drug defense attorney. Pearlman's character tends to be one of the more consistently positive characters on the show as her role in it is that of a conscientious and committed prosecuter who usually conducts her cases in an ethical manner that seeks justice.