* Drunken Judges *
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California February 4, 2005Drunken JudgesToledoBlade.comThursday, February 3, 2005
Many judges have been on wrong side of benchJudges at all points on the legal spectrum in Ohio and nationwide have found themselves on the wrong side of the bench because of accusations of being drunk behind the wheel.
But if history is any indication, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick will keep her job and emerge politically unscathed, regardless of the outcome of her case in criminal court.
Even though Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge John A. Connor has three DUI convictions on his record, voters last fall let him keep his robe for another six years. Last year, a state board that reviews judicial conduct punished Judge Connor with a six-month stayed suspension from the bench - meaning he could continue serving if he followed guidelines of his rehabilitation program.
The punishment came the same year Judge Connor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge in Palm Beach County, Fla., and was sentenced to one-year probation and 10 days in jail with credit for time spent in an alcohol abuse program.
He did not face disciplinary action after a 2000 DUI conviction in Bexley, Ohio, but the criminal courts revoked his license, issued a fine, and ordered him to seek treatment. In 1985, he was publicly reprimanded after he was arrested for DUI and later convicted of permitting drug abuse and reckless operation.
Municipal court judges are far more likely to hear thousands of drunken driving cases, but few have found themselves facing the charge. In 1994, Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Bruce Jenkins was reportedly arrested for drunken driving.
Mr. Jenkins, who retired from the bench in 2003, received a suspended sentence and probation, paid fines, and was ordered to take an alcohol education class, according to published reports at the time.
Ohio Supreme Court's Disciplinary Counsel Jonathan Coughlan said instances where judges become entangled in the legal system because of drunken driving occur only "once in a great while."
In 1979, Ohio Supreme Court Justice William B. Brown was arrested for drunken driving near his home in Chillicothe after his state-owned car rear-ended a vehicle. Even though a police officer at the time said Mr. Brown "swayed like a rocking chair" and the judge admitted he had two drinks, a jury found him innocent.
Twice in the mid-1980s, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas J. Walinski of Toledo, was convicted on drunken driving charges. Despite the convictions, he did not leave the bench.
In January, 1984, he was sentenced to three days in the Toledo House of Correction, fined $300, and had his license revoked for 60 days. The judge pleaded no contest to a DUI and running a red light about 15 months later, and he was ordered to complete a 28-day rehabilitation program, fined $400, and had his driver's license suspended for five years.
Outside of Ohio, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge was cited for drunken driving and trying to leave the scene of an accident in 2003. The judge apologized and the hit-and-run charge was dismissed while she received deferred prosecution on the drunken driving charge.
Washington's Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Judge Bridge, while ordering her to follow the court's rules on her sentence, and make public presentations on her crime.
These cases provide an opportunity for advocates to seek reform and stronger penalties for drunken driving, said Tilde Bricker, state victim services specialist for Ohio's Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"It's a crime that cuts across the board - people of all ages, all walks of life," Ms. Bricker said.
Contact Steve Eder at:
or 419-724-6728.Drunken judges is a major problem within the judiciary. In the hallways of Los Angeles County Superior Courts use to hang posters that stated that there was "Confidential help" for judges addicted to drugs and alcohol, and provide them a 1 (800) telephone number for them to call. I was totally shocked that they let this information out visible for the public to see. And, just think, there were many facing trials before these judges on this same cause.J.A.I.L.- Judicial Accountability Initiative Law - www.jail4judges.org
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