Monday, July 22, 2013


Local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley may be Stark County's leading jurist in terms of his dogged, persistent pursuit of the rule of law.

Undoubtedly, his detractors would like to paint him as a lawyer who has gone amok in that he has so much ego that he cannot abide anyone getting the best of him.

Such might be the view of the anonymous person (presumably a peer lawyer of Conley's or, perhaps, a Stark County judge) who filed an ethics complaint against him on January 28, 2013 with Ohio's Disciplinary Counsel.  (LINK to prior SCPR blog).

Conley was exonerated of having committed any ethics violation on March 26, 2013. (LINK to prior SCPR blog on the topic)

To summarize the origin of things which resulted in the ethics complaint being filed:

Conley accused Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Frank Forchione of grandstanding on part of his sentencing order of a Stark Countian who had pled guilty in his court in December, 2012 in multiple counts of Illegal Use of a Minor in a Nudity-Oriented Material or Performance (R.C. 21907.323(A)(1)](F2)).

Judge Forchione had, in the objectional part of his sentencing (to Conley) of one Scott Studer, ordered him to pay $5,000 for the benefit of the Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, CT) shooting victims of December, 2012.

Conley of February 1, 2013 [LINK to prior SCPR blog) filed suit against Forchione (a Declaratory Judgment action on the interpretation of ORC 2949.11) demanding that "the rule of law" prevail and that Ohio's statutory scheme providing that criminal case fine money be paid to the county treasury in satisfaction of the aforesaid statute.

The reason that the SCPR cites to this particular link is because the referenced blog explores the question of whether or not Conley was motivated to take Forchione on in Studer because of a separate legal tussle between the two on the allegation by Conley that Fochione had demonstrated bias against him in a case in which he was a defendant (citation:  Estate of Cletus P. McCauley et al vs. Craig T. Conley, et al [Stark County, 2011 CV 02325] in 2011 in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas).

Needless to say, Conley denies that such was the case, but the SCPR thinks it is a fair question to ask and consider as one seeks to determine why Conley carries on (with a different client) and a new issue even after Forchione retrieved the $5,000 from Sandy Hook and had Stark County Clerk of Court Nancy Reinbold deposit the money into the Stark County general fund maintained by Stark County Treasurer Alex Zumbar as demanded by Conley.

The ink on the clerk of courts stamp on the voluntary dismissal (February 15, 2013) of the declaratory judgment action (filed on behalf of Thomas Marcelli) had not yet dried  yet when on February 28, 2013, a new legal proceeding was initiated against Judge Forchione.

Initially, Conley was not involved.

But by April 15th, Conley picked up on the new matter (pro bono - for the public good - as in Marcelli v. Forchione) in which Columbus resident Louis Demis (a former Stark Countian with ties to the Navarre area) alleged in an affidavit that Judge Forchione had, in ordering (and in following through in seeing that the order was effectuated [re:  Letter of Transmittal, January 3, 2013]) the $5,000 be paid to the Sandy Hook victims relief fund rather than to the Stark County treasury, committed the criminal offense of "theft in office."

Hearing was held on the affidavit in the Canton Municipal Court on April 23, 2013 before former Barberton Municipal Court judge Michael McNulty with Akron Law Department attorney Craig Morgan (an Akron chief assistant criminal prosecutor) appearing (unsympathetically to the affiant in the opinion of the SCPR) and Conley also appearing but who was actually advocating for the Demis position.  (LINK to prior SCPR blog with video on the entire hearing)

Well, to took Judge McNulty about one hour after concluding the hearing (at about 9:35 a.m. [the state having begun at 9:00 a.m.]) to file his decision of "no probable cause."  (LINK to prior SCPR blog detailing the decision)

Not long after the decision, Conley announced that he would be prosecuting an appeal for Louis Demis.  (LINK to prior SCPR blog)

The SCPR has obtained a copy of Conley's brief (about 15 pages long) filed in the appellate case which he filed on Friday.

Here are the issues as Conley sees them:

If Conley's client is to prevail and Conley's devotion to the "rule of law" is to be realized, then it will be owing to his persistence and doggedness.

For the SCPR daresays that about the only person living in Stark County who believes that the 5th District Court of Appeals will reverse Judge McNulty is Craig T. Conley.

Agree with him or not, like him or not; you have to admire his determinedness, perseverance and persistence.

While the SCPR would be surprised to see Judge McNulty overturned, there were probably a lot of Stark Countians that never thought that the $5,000 Studer fine would make it into the general fund of the Stark County treasury after it had already been paid for the benefit of the the Sandy Hook victims.

But guess where it sits on July 22, 2013?

Judge Forchione is likely being counseled by many that he has absolutely nothing to worry about from the Demis initiative.

And that may prove to be the case.

Nonetheless, the SCPR is guessing that he is not underestimating Craig T. Conley.

For he knows from first hand experience that Conley is absolutely committed to the "rule of law."  And make no mistake about it, motivated or not by outside events, Conley does see the current case as an extension of that basic principle of law.

Finally, he does put his money (i.e. pro bono time) where his mouth is!"

Yes, Craig T. Conley is back.

Could it be that his persistence will produce results once again?

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