Friday, September 20, 2019

Ohio Considers Discipline Reform

The Ohio Supreme Court announces receipt of a report on its bar discipline system

A task force convened by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to examine the state’s disciplinary system for judicial officers and attorneys has released its final report, including a variety of recommendations to the Court aimed at improving and promoting trust in the disciplinary system.

The 117-page “Report and Recommendations of the Supreme Court of Ohio Task Force on the Ohio Disciplinary System” follows a decision by Chief Justice O’Connor last year to convene a highly qualified group to study the state’s disciplinary system for judicial officers and attorneys.

The task force was comprised of 20 members from justice-related backgrounds. Chaired by Cincinnati attorney Paul DeMarco, members included judges, lawyers, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick Fischer.

The report will be formally presented to the seven justices of the Court for their review and consideration this fall.

The task force’s recommendations are aimed at strengthening and furthering public trust and confidence in the judiciary system and include proposals such as:

    • Expanding the role and responsibilities of local bar counsel in certified grievance committee investigations
    • Maintaining the current unitary system for investigating and adjudicating grievances against attorneys and judges
    • Requiring the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to have staff dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of allegations of misconduct by judicial officers
    • Streamlining and improving the process for investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating grievances against Supreme Court justices
    • Creating procedures to address judicial fitness questions that arise during a disciplinary investigation or prosecution
    • Informing attorneys against whom a grievance has been filed of the available services from the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program
    • Expediting disciplinary cases, through measures such as email, and increased use of disciplinary orders in lieu of full opinions.

Today's wish: that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals - which has not had such a study done in a dozen years despite well-documented systemic delays - undertake a similar critical examination in my conscious lifetime.  (Mike Frisch)

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