Archive for the ‘Judicial Misconduct’ Category

Top state court nixes agreed 6-month law-license loss for ex-judge, wants ‘more severe sanction’

November 21, 2013

An agreed six-month law-license suspension for an Ohio judge who dismissed a speeding ticket for his personal lawyer wasn’t sufficient punishment, the state’s top court said Friday.

It refused to accept the discipline-by-consent agreement between the now-retired jurist and the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. Instead, the Ohio Supreme Court called for the board to consider “a more severe sanction” on remand, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Former Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Harland Hale announced in May that he would be retiring from the bench, shortly after the disciplinary complaint was filed against him. He is accused of dismissing a speeding ticket for attorney Patrick M. Quinn, “without any involvement from the prosecutor or Quinn,” the discipline by consent agreement says, and falsely stating on a judgment order that a prosecutor had taken the action. Quinn had been representing Hale in sexual harassment matters.

Full Article and Source:
Top state court nixes agreed 6-month law-license loss for ex-judge, wants ‘more severe sanction’

See Also:
Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

Ohio Judge Accused of Misconduct for Dismissing His Own Lawyer’s Speeding Ticket

Ohio: Judge Accused of Dismissing His Lawyer’s Traffic Ticket Quits

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Top state court nixes agreed 6-month law-license loss for ex-judge, wants ‘more severe sanction’

November 21, 2013

An agreed six-month law-license suspension for an Ohio judge who dismissed a speeding ticket for his personal lawyer wasn’t sufficient punishment, the state’s top court said Friday.

It refused to accept the discipline-by-consent agreement between the now-retired jurist and the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. Instead, the Ohio Supreme Court called for the board to consider “a more severe sanction” on remand, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Former Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Harland Hale announced in May that he would be retiring from the bench, shortly after the disciplinary complaint was filed against him. He is accused of dismissing a speeding ticket for attorney Patrick M. Quinn, “without any involvement from the prosecutor or Quinn,” the discipline by consent agreement says, and falsely stating on a judgment order that a prosecutor had taken the action. Quinn had been representing Hale in sexual harassment matters.

Full Article and Source:
Top state court nixes agreed 6-month law-license loss for ex-judge, wants ‘more severe sanction’

See Also:
Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

Ohio Judge Accused of Misconduct for Dismissing His Own Lawyer’s Speeding Ticket

Ohio: Judge Accused of Dismissing His Lawyer’s Traffic Ticket Quits

Gallia County judge receives stayed suspension for misconduct

November 21, 2013

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Common Pleas Court Judge D. Dean Evans has received a one-year stayed suspension from the Ohio Supreme Court for failing to disqualify himself from a case in which he had a conflict with defense counsel.

According to a release issued by the Office of Public Information of the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 5-2 per curium decision (not authored by any particular justice) announced Tuesday, the court rejected the sanction of a six-month stayed suspension that has been recommended by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline and instead imposed a full year stayed suspension.

When contacted for comment on Tuesday afternoon in regard to the Supreme Court’s decision, Judge Evans reported that he could make no public comment on the case, but did state that the decision released on Tuesday would in no way affect the functioning of the Gallia County Common Pleas Court or the cases awaiting action in court.

Attorney Robert W. Bright practiced before Judge Evans representing indigent criminal defendants for the Gallia County public-defender commission. In the case that resulted in this disciplinary complaint, according information contained in the initial opinion released on Tuesday by the court, Bright represented a defendant who had initially agreed to enter into a plea agreement but later changed his mind during the plea hearing before Judge Evans. Moments later, the defendant changed his mind again, and Judge Evans refused to accept the plea. Three days later, Judge Evans again refused to accept the plea agreement even though Bright and the county prosecutor jointly agreed to it.

Bright then filed an 18-page motion requesting that Judge Evans accept the plea agreement and stating that the judge’s refusal to do so was “an abuse of discretion” and “unreasonable and/or arbitrary and/or unconscionable.” Bright also criticized some of Judge Evans’s other courtroom practices.

Judge Evans issued an entry overruling Bright’s motion and removing Bright as counsel in the matter. The entry stated in part:

The Court finds that while Defense Counsel’s attitude toward the Court as expressed in the instant motion may not rise to the level of Professional Misconduct or to the level of being contemptuous, it certainly is not acceptable behavior. By such conduct he has created conflict with the Court whereby in this case or for that matter any other case in the future, when he does not agree with a decision or ruling by the Court, instead of being critical by accusation of being arbitrary, unreasonable, unconscionable or of abusing discretion, he simply may accuse the court of being bias [sic] or prejudice [sic] as it relates to him. The Court must not only avoid any impropriety, bias or prejudice but must avoid any appearance of such. The expressions and attitudes of Defense Counsel as exhibited and announced in the instant motion toward this Court compromises [sic] the Court’s ability to avoid any appearance of bias [or] prejudice, or to be fair and impartial as it relates to Defense Counsel regardless [of] how hard it tries or what strides it makes toward guaranteeing that there would be no bias, prejudice and that it would be fair and impartial.

According to information provided in the Ohio Supreme Court decision, Judge Evans subsequently filed entries removing Bright as appointed counsel in 63 other criminal cases — even though none of the defendants in any case had requested Bright’s removal as their counsel. The entry in each case stated that “Attorney Robert W. Bright is relieved of further obligation due to the conflict he has created with the Court” and “due to the Court’s inquiry to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Supreme Court of Ohio regarding Mr. Bright’s conduct.”

Judge Evans’s actions removed Bright’s entire caseload, and, reportedly, within a month of the judge’s entries, the Gallia County public defender terminated Bright’s employment, reasoning that it had “no other options,” since Bright could not practice in Judge Evans’s courtroom. Disciplinary counsel ultimately decided against filing any charges against Bright based on Judge Evans’s grievance.

The Ohio State Bar Association subsequently brought a complaint against Judge Evans. The parties submitted a consent-to-discipline agreement recommending that Judge Evans be publicly reprimanded. The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline rejected the agreement and remanded the matter for further proceedings before a three-member panel of the board. On remand, the parties waived a hearing and submitted stipulations of fact and misconduct and jointly recommended a stayed six-month suspension. The panel, and later the board, adopted the parties’ stipulations and recommended sanction. No objections were filed before the Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
Gallia County judge receives stayed suspension for misconduct

Gallia County judge receives stayed suspension for misconduct

November 21, 2013

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Common Pleas Court Judge D. Dean Evans has received a one-year stayed suspension from the Ohio Supreme Court for failing to disqualify himself from a case in which he had a conflict with defense counsel.

According to a release issued by the Office of Public Information of the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 5-2 per curium decision (not authored by any particular justice) announced Tuesday, the court rejected the sanction of a six-month stayed suspension that has been recommended by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline and instead imposed a full year stayed suspension.

When contacted for comment on Tuesday afternoon in regard to the Supreme Court’s decision, Judge Evans reported that he could make no public comment on the case, but did state that the decision released on Tuesday would in no way affect the functioning of the Gallia County Common Pleas Court or the cases awaiting action in court.

Attorney Robert W. Bright practiced before Judge Evans representing indigent criminal defendants for the Gallia County public-defender commission. In the case that resulted in this disciplinary complaint, according information contained in the initial opinion released on Tuesday by the court, Bright represented a defendant who had initially agreed to enter into a plea agreement but later changed his mind during the plea hearing before Judge Evans. Moments later, the defendant changed his mind again, and Judge Evans refused to accept the plea. Three days later, Judge Evans again refused to accept the plea agreement even though Bright and the county prosecutor jointly agreed to it.

Bright then filed an 18-page motion requesting that Judge Evans accept the plea agreement and stating that the judge’s refusal to do so was “an abuse of discretion” and “unreasonable and/or arbitrary and/or unconscionable.” Bright also criticized some of Judge Evans’s other courtroom practices.

Judge Evans issued an entry overruling Bright’s motion and removing Bright as counsel in the matter. The entry stated in part:

The Court finds that while Defense Counsel’s attitude toward the Court as expressed in the instant motion may not rise to the level of Professional Misconduct or to the level of being contemptuous, it certainly is not acceptable behavior. By such conduct he has created conflict with the Court whereby in this case or for that matter any other case in the future, when he does not agree with a decision or ruling by the Court, instead of being critical by accusation of being arbitrary, unreasonable, unconscionable or of abusing discretion, he simply may accuse the court of being bias [sic] or prejudice [sic] as it relates to him. The Court must not only avoid any impropriety, bias or prejudice but must avoid any appearance of such. The expressions and attitudes of Defense Counsel as exhibited and announced in the instant motion toward this Court compromises [sic] the Court’s ability to avoid any appearance of bias [or] prejudice, or to be fair and impartial as it relates to Defense Counsel regardless [of] how hard it tries or what strides it makes toward guaranteeing that there would be no bias, prejudice and that it would be fair and impartial.

According to information provided in the Ohio Supreme Court decision, Judge Evans subsequently filed entries removing Bright as appointed counsel in 63 other criminal cases — even though none of the defendants in any case had requested Bright’s removal as their counsel. The entry in each case stated that “Attorney Robert W. Bright is relieved of further obligation due to the conflict he has created with the Court” and “due to the Court’s inquiry to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Supreme Court of Ohio regarding Mr. Bright’s conduct.”

Judge Evans’s actions removed Bright’s entire caseload, and, reportedly, within a month of the judge’s entries, the Gallia County public defender terminated Bright’s employment, reasoning that it had “no other options,” since Bright could not practice in Judge Evans’s courtroom. Disciplinary counsel ultimately decided against filing any charges against Bright based on Judge Evans’s grievance.

The Ohio State Bar Association subsequently brought a complaint against Judge Evans. The parties submitted a consent-to-discipline agreement recommending that Judge Evans be publicly reprimanded. The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline rejected the agreement and remanded the matter for further proceedings before a three-member panel of the board. On remand, the parties waived a hearing and submitted stipulations of fact and misconduct and jointly recommended a stayed six-month suspension. The panel, and later the board, adopted the parties’ stipulations and recommended sanction. No objections were filed before the Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
Gallia County judge receives stayed suspension for misconduct

Ex-judge Hale’s punishment not enough, Supreme Court says

November 17, 2013

A six-month suspension of former Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Harland Hale’s law license isn’t punishment enough, the Ohio Supreme Court declared today.

In an unusual move, the justices rejected the recommended punishment and sent the case back to the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline for further proceedings, “including consideration of a more severe sanction.”

Hale has admitted that he committed judicial misconduct by dismissing a speeding ticket in December 2011 for a lawyer who represented him in state and federal lawsuits. The judge, who sat on the bench for a decade, announced his retirement on May 9, one week after the disciplinary counsel filed a complaint against him. He said then he wanted to continue his career as a lawyer.

Hale had reached a “discipline by consent” agreement with the high court’s disciplinary counsel. The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline approved the agreement on Oct. 14 and recommended it to the Supreme Court.

Hale dismissed a speeding ticket for attorney Patrick M. Quinn, who was representing him in sexual-harassment lawsuits. The judge threw out the ticket “without any involvement from the prosecutor or Quinn” and signed a judgment that “falsely stated: Prosecutor dismisses,” the agreement says.

About four months later, he engaged in improper communication about the case by contacting Quinn and Chief City Prosecutor Lara Baker-Morrish. He asked each to sign an entry indicating that the ticket was dismissed “with the consent of the Columbus city attorney’s office and the defendant.” Baker-Morrish refused.

Hale eventually vacated the dismissal and removed himself from the case. Quinn pleaded guilty and paid a $55 fine and $116 in court costs on the day that the judge stepped aside.

Quinn represented Hale in three lawsuits stemming from complaints of inappropriate behavior against the judge by a court employee and a defendant in a drunken-driving case. All three cases were settled out of court.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-judge Hale’s punishment not enough, Supreme Court says

See Also:
Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

Ohio Judge Accused of Misconduct for Dismissing His Own Lawyer’s Speeding Ticket

Ohio: Judge Accused of Dismissing His Lawyer’s Traffic Ticket Quits

Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

October 29, 2013

Former Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Harland H. Hale will be suspended from practicing law for six months if the Ohio Supreme Court accepts an agreement he reached with the court’s disciplinary counsel.

The agreement includes an admission by Hale that he committed judicial misconduct by dismissing a speeding ticket in December 2011 for a lawyer who represented him in state and federal lawsuits.

Hale, who sat on the bench for a decade, announced his retirement on May 9, one week after the disciplinary counsel filed a complaint against him over the incident. He said at the time that he would continue his career as a lawyer.

Hale was scheduled for a September hearing before a three-member panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, but instead he reached what is known as a “discipline by consent” agreement with the disciplinary counsel.

The panel approved the agreement and recommended it to the full 28-member board. The board considered the agreement on Oct. 11 and recommended it to the Supreme Court.

The agreement and six-month suspension aren’t official without approval by the court. Joseph M. Caligiuri, chief assistant disciplinary counsel, said yesterday that there is no timetable for the court’s decision.

“It’s in a holding pattern now,” he said. “They can accept it or reject it. They can’t modify it.”
Lawyers facing a disciplinary hearing are always encouraged to reach an agreement with the disciplinary counsel, Caligiuri said.

“A minority of the cases result in a consent to discipline,” he said.

Hale and a Cincinnati lawyer who represented him in the case did not return messages yesterday.
The Dispatch reported in April 2012 that Hale had dismissed a speeding ticket in December 2011 for lawyer Patrick M. Quinn, who was representing him in lawsuits related to sexual-harassment complaints.

Hale dismissed the ticket “without any involvement from the prosecutor or Quinn” and signed a judgment that “falsely stated: Prosecutor dismisses,” according to the agreement.

Four months later, he engaged in improper communication regarding the case by separately contacting Quinn and Chief City Prosecutor Lara Baker-Morrish. He asked each to sign an entry indicating that the ticket was dismissed “with the consent of the Columbus city attorney’s office and the defendant.” Baker-Morrish refused.

Hale eventually vacated the dismissal and removed himself from the case. Quinn pleaded guilty and paid a $55 fine and $116 in court costs on the day that Hale withdrew.

Quinn represented Hale in three lawsuits that stemmed from complaints of inappropriate behavior against the judge by a court employee and a defendant in a drunken-driving case. All three cases eventually were settled out of court.

He is the first Franklin County judge to be named in a complaint by the disciplinary counsel since 2005, when then-Domestic Relations Judge Carole Squire was accused of abusing the rights of those who came before her and not following the law. She was defeated for re-election one year later, and the Supreme Court suspended her law license for one year in October 2007.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

See Also:
Ohio Judge Accused of Misconduct for Dismissing His Own Lawyer’s Speeding Ticket

Ohio: Judge Accused of Dismissing His Lawyer’s Traffic Ticket Quits

Judicial panel should have more options

October 19, 2013

SAN ANTONIO — Judicial misconduct is a serious matter.

The commission that investigates allegations of misconduct against Texas judges deserves greater leeway in the types of disciplinary actions it can take after making findings. Proposition 9 would grant expanded options.

Complaints about Texas judges are reviewed by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which was created in 1965 to handle judicial discipline. About 1,200 complaints are filed each year against Texas judges at all levels of the judicial system. About 6 percent result in disciplinary action.

After investigating a complaint, the judicial commission has the option of taking action or ordering a formal hearing on the more serious cases if warranted. A flaw in the way the commission was established provides a wide range of sanctions in cases heard behind closed doors, but the panel is severely limited on the type of actions involving formal public hearings.

The Texas Constitution limits action taken as a result of a public hearing to a public censure or recommendation of removal or retirement. The options for nonpublic hearings include private or public admonitions, warnings, reprimands or orders to obtain additional training or education.

Limiting the range of sanctions at the disposal of the 13-member judicial conduct commission is a disservice to the process. In 2010, the restrictive nature of the sanctions available permitted Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller to beat the disciplinary action taken against her using this technicality.

Keller was given a public warning for blocking a death-row inmate’s last minute appeal on the day of his execution. The commission found Keller failed to properly perform her duties when she closed the appeal court clerk’s office at 5 p.m. after she was advised by the defendant’s lawyers that they were having computer problems and wanted to file an after-hours appeal.

The appellate judge successfully challenged the public warning the judicial commission issued because it was not one of the sanctions allowed by the state Constitution in cases such as hers. Despite the troubling conduct, which cast the entire Texas judicial system in an unfavorable light nationally, Keller was able to avoid any official censure.

The public’s confidence in the judiciary would have been boosted if the commission had taken one of the harsher sanction options open to them — which were to remove her from office or force her into retirement — but that is hindsight.

Texas voters can improve the system so history is not allowed to repeat itself by giving members of State Commission on Judicial Conduct a full range of options on sanctions they can take after judicial investigations.

Proposition 9 provides some much-needed fine-tuning of the rules under which the Commission on Judicial Conduct operates.

Full Article and Source:
Judicial panel should have more options

New laws mean changes for judges, elections

August 7, 2013


A public campaign financing program meant to limit special interest influence in judicial elections in the state met its death in the legislature during the final hours of the long session.

The bill repeals the public financing law that used certain fees attorneys paid to the bar, $3 checked-off funds on tax forms and state funds that gave judges an opportunity to agree to certain spending thresholds and rules to tap into public campaign funds.
The state was one of the first in the country to pass such legislation that will soon be history.  

The change comes despite pleas by all but one judge on the state’s Court of Appeals.

Other changes targeted at the state’s judicial system include a law that gives the Supreme Court the authority to discipline its own judges rather than six senior judges on the Court of Appeals. That measure also takes the public out of the know when it comes to judicial misconduct.

Currently, hearings before the state’s adjudicatory panel are open to the public. Under the new law they would not be.

Chief Justice Sarah Parker and John Martin, chief judge of the N.C. Court of Appeals and chairman of the Judicial Standards Commission, urged lawmakers not to adopt the new changes on the basis of conflicts in judges having to discipline their peers, no avenue for revealing public exoneration and leaving no public record of the process.

Full Article and Source:
New laws mean changes for judges, elections

Judge’s outburst ‘disturbing’

June 19, 2013

The judicial conduct commissioner has described a judge’s “shrill and unprofessional outburst” during a Family Court hearing as “disturbing”.
 
A complaint was laid against Judge Emma Smith by a family concerned about her behaviour during a hearing into the terms of a parenting order over their daughter in 2010. Commissioner Sir David Gascoigne made a report in October, last year.
  
He said the complaint was not trivial, and “not frivolous, vexatious or made otherwise than in good faith”.
  
Smith is quoted in the report as saying “I reject any improper behaviour by myself as alleged”. She did, however, state that there were tense times during the hearing when all became frustrated, including her.
  
Sir David had concerns with a particular audio passage featuring Smith. “It is my opinion that what occurred during this part of the hearing was a shrill and unprofessional outburst on the judge’s part.
This amounted to gross and gratuitous discourtesy to a professional witness who, on my assessment, maintained his own complete professionalism in the face of a distinctly challenging situation.”
 
The commissioner also considered a claim of bias against Judge Smith, but found there was no conduct warranting his intervention.
  
He referred the matter to the “head of bench”, chief district court judge Jan-Marie Doogue, saying there was a “significant and troublesome aspect of judicial conduct present”.
  
A responding letter by Judge Doogue in March said had she known about personal difficulties Judge Smith was having at the time she may have required her to stand aside, and would be reminding judges to advise her if they were faced with undue personal pressures that might create inappropriate judicial behaviours in future.
 
“I can advise that the judge accepts on reflection that the witness experienced her questions, attitude and approach as disrespectful, unprofessional, excessive and debilitating.
 
“Whilst it is not an excuse, it is an explanation to say that the judge was enduring traumatic personal circumstances herself at the time.”
 
Judge Smith had since sought and obtained professional assistance, regretted the circumstances and was genuinely apologetic for any and all distress caused, she said.
 
“As Head of Bench, however, I must be mindful that judges are human beings and sometimes subjected to unbearable pressure themselves.”
 
The family who laid the original complaint have lodged another complaint to have Judge Smith seen as incapacitated in some way, and wanted to see her decision to allow unsupervised visits between their daughter and her birth father overturned. This is despite a 2011 appeal to the High Court being dismissed.

Full Article and Source:
Judge’s outburst ‘disturbing’

Ohio Judge Accused of Misconduct for Dismissing His Own Lawyer’s Speeding Ticket

May 7, 2013

A Franklin County Municipal Court judge is accused of violating the code of judicial conduct by dismissing a traffic ticket against a lawyer who was representing him in state and federal lawsuits.

Harland H. Hale, the court’s environmental judge, should be disciplined for his behavior, the Ohio Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel said in a complaint filed this week.

A three-member panel from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline will be appointed to hear the case. If they and the Supreme Court justices agree with disciplinary counsel Jonathan E. Coughlan, Hale would face discipline ranging from a written reprimand to disbarment.

Full Article and Source:
Speeding-Ticket Dismissal Brings Misconduct Case Against Franklin County Judge