Tuesday, October 22, 2013
A summary from Bret Crow on the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Ohio today overturned a judicial campaign conduct violation against an Akron judge.
Earlier this year, a five-judge commission upheld a hearing panel’s finding that Summit County Probate Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer violated Jud.Cond.R. 4.4(E). At the time of Stomer’s conduct, the rule prohibited a judicial candidate from participating in or receiving campaign contributions from a tiered judicial fundraising event. However, a rule change eliminating the prohibition became effective Jan. 1, 2013.
Judge Stormer’s opponent in the probate court race, Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison McCarty, brought the complaint based on a 2012 fund-raising event in which contributions were categorized and recognized by amounts.
The Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline certified the complaint on Oct. 23, 2012. A three-commissioner hearing panel of the board heard the case on Oct. 29, 2012 and filed its report and recommendation with the Supreme Court to find a violation and sanction Stormer on Nov. 5, 2012. The Supreme Court appointed a five-judge commission on Nov. 9, 2012, which filed its decision on Jan. 10, 2013. Stormer appealed the commission’s decision to the Supreme Court on Jan. 29, 2013.
The Supreme Court noted in its per curiam (not authored by one justice) opinion today that “it appears that Stormer is the only judicial candidate to be formally charged with a violation of former Jud.Cond.R. 4.4(E) in the 17 years that it was in effect. The commission’s finding that she violated the rule did not come until January 10, 2013 – ten days after the rule was abrogated.”
“In light of these unusual circumstances, the absence of any need to deter future conduct of this nature, whether committed by Stormer or any other judicial candidate, and Stomer’s exemplary record during her more than 30 years of legal practice, more than 20 of which have been spent on the bench, we conclude the no sanction is warranted,” the opinion concludes.
The court further concluded that Stormer did not “knowingly” violate the former rule and that not every violation warrants the imposition of discipline given the many factors at play in individual cases. The court also ordered the Office of Attorney Services to remove the violation from Stormer’s record.
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)