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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Court again rebukes Portage County judge

An Ohio appeals court has upbraided a controversial Portage County judge for a second time in as many weeks " this time for finding a young public defender in contempt.

The 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals found Wednesday that Municipal Judge John Plough "abused his discretion" when he fined attorney Brian Jones for refusing to proceed with trial in 2007.

Jones was just four months out of law school and had been assigned the case only the day before. Jones said he had a duty to his client to be able to prepare. Plough ordered the young attorney held and later fined him.

"I'm glad I've been exonerated," Jones said Friday in a telephone interview.

.

Ian Friedman, president of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and counsel for Jones in the contempt case, said, "This opinion reinforces the longstanding right to be afforded all individuals accused of a crime; the right to a fair trial and due process should be absolute and not be pushed aside for any reason like clearing a court's schedule."

Attorneys and legal associations from around the country rallied in support of Jones.

John Wesley Hall, an Arkansas lawyer who leads the National As-

sociation of Criminal Defense Lawyers, testified on Jones' behalf. "I don't know that I would have had the ability to have stood up like that, at that age," he said Friday.

Wednesday's appellate opinion, written by Judge Colleen Mary O'Toole, noted that "abuse of discretion" implies that a court's attitude "is unreasonable, arbitrary and unconscionable."

Jones had asked for a continuance so he could review the case before trial and interview witnesses. [Mark Godsey]

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