Friday, November 15, 2013

Six Months May Not Be Enough

The Ohio Supreme Court has remanded a disciplinary matter against a judge, rejecting an agreed-upon six-month suspension in favor of consideration of a more severe sanction.

ABC6 reported the charges

The Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court has now recommended Environmental Court Judge Harland Hale should be charged with misconduct.

The official complaint says Hale violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when he dismissed a speeding ticket for a lawyer who had been representing Judge Hale.

The complaint says lawyer Patrick Quinn got the ticket and asked the judge if he could be arraigned without appearing in court.

Hale is alleged to have taken the ticket, and  the complaint says he “…dismissed Quinn’s ticket without any involvement from the prosecutor or Quinn”.

The complaint says Judge Hale wrote falsely that the Prosecutor dismissed the charge, and later had improper communication with the prosecutor.
A three Judge panel will be appointed to hear the case.

If they find Judge Hale guilty, the punishment ranges from a reprimand to disbarment.Judge Hale Faces Disciplinary Action

 The Columbus Dispatch also reported on allegations against the judge, noting that the speeding ticket involved an attorney who represented the judge

On Jan. 18, one month after Hale dismissed the speeding ticket, Quinn was beside him as his attorney during a deposition in a lawsuit filed by the judge against his accusers, court records show. Quinn shares a law practice with Ric Brunner, Hale’s lead attorney for the civil cases.

The legal battle began in December 2010 when Brenda Williams, a former Spanish-language interpreter for the Municipal Court, filed a federal lawsuit saying that court officials covered up or failed to act on her complaints about Hale’s inappropriate behavior. Her lawsuit did not name Hale as a defendant, because he, along with a group of judges and the Municipal Court administrator, settled out of court.

In November, Hale filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against Williams; her attorney, Michael Moore; and Lynn Hamilton, a Groveport resident who also had accused the judge of inappropriate behavior. He said that all three defamed him and that Williams and Moore had violated the settlement agreement by discussing the case.

Hamilton filed a federal lawsuit against Hale one week later, accusing him of making unwanted sexual advances after she appeared in his court on a drunken-driving charge.

All of the parties to the suits were in court-ordered mediation yesterday trying to resolve the disputes.

The process could be complicated by an allegation this week that Hale tried to influence a potential witness in Hamilton’s lawsuit.

Hamilton’s attorney, Toki Clark, filed a motion on Wednesday asking a federal judge to schedule a hearing on the matter and to consider sanctions against Hale.

The witness, Sandra Marcum, said in an affidavit that she had “a personal relationship” with Hale from May 2010 to the summer of 2011, after he asked for her phone number when she appeared in his court. She said he called her on April 16 after learning that she was a potential witness in Hamilton’s case and said, “Make sure to tell them we were just friends.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Harland’s calls to me were to let me know what I should and should not say if I am called to testify,” Marcum said. “I am afraid that, if I am called as a witness and testify truthfully about what happened between us, I will be in danger.”

During a break in the mediation, Clark said she wants the federal judge to take action “to ensure that no other witnesses in this case are going to be intimidated.”

Hale would not comment on the allegation.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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