Monday, September 14, 2020
An Ohio judge has been charged with ethics violations involving Facebook Messenger communications with a person he had friended after presiding over his criminal trial and divorce
Sometime prior to July 22, 2019, respondent and Keith became “friends” on Facebook. They remained friends on Facebook until August 25, 2020.
Between July 22, 2019 and December 19, 2019, Keith and respondent regularly communicated with each other using Facebook Messenger, a free mobile messaging app developed by Facebook, Inc. for instant messaging and sharing of photos, videos, or audio recordings between Facebook friends.
In a pending criminal matter
On August 27, 2019, Keith sent respondent a message via Facebook Messenger. In that message, Keith told respondent that [defendant] Mendez had sold heroin to Keith’s daughter, and he requested that respondent not give Mendez a “bond he can make.”
At no time while respondent was presiding over Mendez’s case did respondent disclose to either party that he had received an ex parte communication from Keith concerning Mendez.
He and Keith allegedly communicated about post-divorce matters
On the same day, respondent replied to Keith’s message via Facebook Messenger and stated, “Yes he is! That’s funny. I’ll look for him and for sure talk to him if I see him. I like his attitude[.] 😊😊”
On September 6, 2019, Keith filed a pro se Motion for Change of Parenting Time in his divorce case over which respondent was presiding.
Between September 6, 2019 and September 30, 2019, Keith and respondent exchanged several private messages with each other via Facebook Messenger, including information pertinent to Keith’s Motion for Change of Parenting Time.
There are alleged communications concerning an order permitting Keith to attend his mother's funeral
On December 18, 2019 at 4:48 p.m., Keith sent a message to respondent via Facebook Messenger and asked, “Any word on what’s going to happen with funeral [?]”
On December 18, 2019 at 9:25 p.m., respondent replied to Keith via Facebook Messenger and stated, “A deputy will accompany you. No need for consent, no need for a hearing and the Sheriff is onboard.” Keith immediately replied and stated, “You sure[?] Thank you Bruce[.]”
At no time while respondent was considering the Motion for Permission to Travel in Keith’s case did he disclose to Lear or the prosecutor’s office that he had spoken to Keith or that he had received and responded to multiple Facebook Messenger communications from Keith concerning the matter.
Finally, alleged communications concerning an accident between Keith and a charged defendant in a matter that the judge heard
At no time during the pendency of Fishburn’s criminal case did respondent disclose to Fishburn, Fishburn’s counsel, or the prosecutor that respondent had received multiple Facebook Messenger communications from Keith concerning Keith’s injuries and Fishburn’s criminal case.