In yesterday's blog, The Stark County Political Report focused on the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeals on August 18, 2014 that Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Dixilene Park had abused her authority and thereby had denied a Stark Countian "due process of law" in placing her in jail for 11 days in October, 2013 (In re: Finan).
A number of Stark Countians think that Judge Park's legal transgression was of such an order that the right thing for Judge Park to do would be to resign from the bench.
The SCPR has yet to talk with the attorney for subject of Judge Park's illegal action as to the effect on his client Barbara Lockhart. However, a highly reliable third party tells The Report that Attorney Jakmides is reporting that Lockhart has suffered great trama in being jailed.
This incident is a reminder that, in the American system of justice judges (as in most), are very powerful public officials whom are largely unaccountable for the official acts.
The Fifth District Court of Appeals (Judges Scott Gwin, writer of the In re: Finan opinion, and concurring judges William B. Hoffman and John W. Wise) should be honored by Stark Countians for reversing Judge Park and thereby reiterating that "the rule of law" is to prevail in Stark County courts.
The SCPR understands that a number of attorneys who practice in Judge Park's court think she is infected with an arbitrary and capricious "legal" virus and has favorites.
But like most of us, when it comes to dealing with powerful persons in our government; they, by and large, will not come out into the sunshine and confront the powerful persons who abuse their official authority.
However, Stark County is blessed to have one - local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley - who has, with other powerful Stark County officials, and is, in the Park situation, standing in the sunlight with his allegations.
Of course, if Judge Park wants to respond to Mr. Conley's charges; she is welcome to go on camera with the Stark County Political Report with her response.
Somehow, the SCPR, does not think that is going to happen.
Of course, there would be no "off limits" questions.
But the offer stands.
Some might want to take Conley's stance as being disrespectful . The SCPR does not. And the reason The Report does not is that it appears that Conley's coming forward is because of his devotion to "the rule of law" even if it means he has to suffer retaliation for doing so.
When he took on Judge Frank Forchione of he Stark County Court of Common Pleas for redirecting $5,000 of Stark County taxpayer money to benefit the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in ascribing "political grandstanding" as seemingly being Forchione's motivation, he had to suffer of indignity of having a ethics complaint filed against him by an "anonymous" complainant.
State of Ohio disciplinary officials did the right thing in finding that Conley had not violated Ohio's canons of ethics.
In the SCPR's way of thinking, the Conleys of the world strengthen our democratic/republican ways of life and are not a detriment as the powerful subjects of their scrutiny want the public to believe.
Before getting to a letter sent to the SCPR by Conley, let's review how Judge Park got to where she is now.
As Stark Countians who read the SCPR know, one of the least favorite ways in the estimate of The Report one becomes a judge in Ohio is for a judgeship to become vacated for one reason or another.
Upon the creation of a vacancy, under the law of Ohio, the vacancy is filled by the-then sitting governor.
And structurally this process is just fine.
However, the structure gets impaired by the introduction of Republican/Democratic Party benefited politics into the structural process.
Not to get into a detailed description of this - in the view of the SCPR - potential corrupting of our judicial processes aspect of the appointment procedure - the process almost universally ends up with the appointment of a person of the same political identity as the appointing governor.
Merit, the SCPR thinks, is secondary at best. Politics appears to be the guiding principle.
That both political parties do it, is no answer.
All that means that Democratic/Republican political party officials are all too willing to put political party interests ahead of the public interest of seeking out the very best Solomons to administer justice.
And make no mistake about it, some first-rate people become judges under seeming political party controlled way of making judicial appointments.
One of the SCPR's ideal judges (now retired) Charles E. Brown, Jr of Alliance was appointed by Governor Taft. Brown was a no-nonsense judge with a heart and, more importantly, a disciple of the "rule of law."
One of the highlights of his career was his administration of a convicts re-entry in a wholesome and integrated fashion back into society once "they had paid their debt to society."
Another of Governor Taft's appointees was Dixilene Park, also of Alliance.
Needless to repeat; the SCPR is not impressed with this Taft appointment.
And "time 'may' tell" in his favor (voters may retain him as a judge in view of the likely Republican sweep of the November 4th election), but the recent appointment by Governor Kasich of J. Curtis Werren to replace the retiring V. Lee Sinclair is suspect to the SCPR inasmuch as Werren is a guy with strong Republican Party connections who got the appointment over Democrat and top flight Stark County prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett notwithstanding that he had not been a practicing attorney for a significant period of time prior to being appointed.
Voters of Stark County get a chance on November 4th to weigh in on the Werren/Hartnett competition because Hartnett has taken her case to the voters.
Reports are that Werren is doing okay as a judge. But the SCPR has to believe that Hartnett is much better positioned to become an outstanding judge than is Werren.
Now back to the Park matter.
Here is Conley's letter:
Regarding the above-referenced subject matter, you have posed a number of questions to me which I am willing to answer, subject only to the restrictions imposed upon me by the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or by the Rules for the Government of the Bar.
1. Yes, I would consider it appropriate for Judge Park, based solely upon her gross misconduct as set forth by the unanimous Court in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2013 CA 00212, 2014-Ohio-3572, to forthwith tender her resignation (which circumstance I consider more than just unlikely).
2. No, I do not have any "hidden agenda" here. I simply want every Judge to follow the law and honor our Constitution; and, as an attorney/officer of the Court, I believe I have an affirmative duty to diligently and aggressively pursue the proper administration of justice, notwithstanding any potential for judicial retaliation and retribution.
Indeed, I believe every attorney should put that same aforesaid affirmative duty ahead of his or her "checkbook".
3. Yes, I have previously filed or "ghost written" Affidavits of Disqualification against Judge Park, two of which were denied
and two of which were successful in that Judge Park, during pendency of same, "voluntarily" recused herself.
Additionally, I presently have four Affidavits of Disqualification pending against Judge Park seeking her disqualification from five Stark County Probate Court Cases on the basis of her bias and prejudice against me and/or in favor of my opposing parties or counsel; and, in two of those Cases, I have Motions to Vacate and a Motion to Strike pending, which Motions are predicated upon Judge Park's overtly blatant failure to comply with applicable statutes, Rules of Court and constitutional due process provisions.
4. Yes, as to Judge Park's previous decisions, I have both lost and won in the Court of Appeals.
However, quite significantly, I obtained a (almost-never-granted) writ of procedendo against Judge Park in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2012 CA 0C121; in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2013 CA 00206, I obtained vacation, as void ab initio, of several of Judge Park's decisions in a Probate Estate; and, in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2011 CA 00191, following service of my Complaint in Mandamus against her, she did what she should have done in the first place and provided me, albeit most reluctantly and upon "prodding" by the Stark County Prosecutor, the subject public records (noting that I presently have another such mandamus action pending against her in Fifth District Court of Appeals Case No. 2014 CA 30169).
5. Yes, as set forth in my aforesaid pending Affidavits of Disqualification, I do have legitimate (and I believe demonstrable) concerns about Judge Park's willingness and/or ability to understand and comply with applicable statutes, Rules of Court, constitutional previsions and jurisprudence.
In that regard, as but one example, I am particularly mystified by Judge Park's ongoing insistence in inexplicably returning to me, in "domino fashion", all of the service copies of Affidavit-related filings I had faxed to her. She returned all of those service copies on the purported grounds (as set forth in her identical cover letters to me} that same were "non-permitted-fax filings" in her Court, notwithstanding the obvious fact that all of those service copies reflected filings made in the Ohio Supreme Court, not in her Court (noting that those service copies were timely and duly served upon her pursuant to O.R.C. 2701.03(B)(3)).
6. Yes, dozens of other attorneys have the same opinion of and concerns about Judge Park as do I, but with very few exceptions, most do not have the "intestinal fortitude" to speak up or to otherwise do anything to "rock the boat", noting that neither I nor Attorney Jakmides are among such attorneys and further noting that three of my colleagues in the two pending
Bolog Guardianship-related Affidavits of Disqualification, notwithstanding their legitimate concerns and fears about retaliation and retribution (and the attendant adverse impact
on their income), have written letters supportive of same to the Master Commissioner.
... Judge Park consistently "achieves" the Stark County Bar Association's lowest approval rating.
7. Yes, Judge Park does have several "pals" whose fee requests and/or motions are, of record, rather routinely and quickly
granted, which has certainly not been either my experience in her Court or the experience of the aforesaid dozens of other attorneys.
Indeed, I am aware of a number of out-of-County attorneys who intentionally decline, solely because of Judge Park, to practice in the Stark County Probate Court.
In sum, notwithstanding the risk to my "fame and fortune", it remains my firm intention to continue (even if in "Lone Ranger" fashion) my aforesaid course of action, with the ultimate goal of improving both the Bench and the Bar in Stark County and therefore, at least: hopefully, assuring the proper administration of justice for its citizens.
Some pretty serious allegations, no?
Hopefully, the Stark County public will get some answers either by Judge Park going on camera with the SCPR with a response or in some other forum, voluntarily or involuntarily.
For the SCPR, the Conley allegations, if borne out, serve the function of adding to what is already enough for Judge Park to resign, that is to say the Fifth District Court of Appeals decision in the In re: Finan case.
For a higher court to say that Judge Park abused her discretion as a judge in denying constitutionally guaranteed due process of law rights which resulted in what had to be a horrifying experience of being jailed for 11 days on the part of Barbara Lockhart is in and of itself enough to warrant Park stepping down.
The Fifth District Court of Appeals let Judge Park have her say (which is another way of saying "affording her due process of law") before it negating her contempt of court finding of September 25, 2013.
Barbara Lockhart was arrested on October 1, 2013 and remained jailed for 11 days without having been afforded due process of law!
To repeat, In re: Finan is enough insofar as The Stark County Political Report is concerned for Judge Park to remove herself from the Stark County bench!