Other local jurisdictions made the change long ago
Sheila McLaughlin reports:
Thomas Moyer, the late Ohio Supreme Court chief justice, tried for more than a decade to eliminate the use of part-time judges across the state.
They more recently came under attack by Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser.
He called one local judge “the fox in the hen house” and was instrumental in getting the judge kicked off of 10 drunken driving cases.
He accused another of showing favoritism to a judicial colleague’s law associate. He asked the Supreme Court to all but strip part-time judges of their private law practices, saying it was a conflict.
“That solution is neither feasible nor advised. It would force some judges to immediately leave the bench and discourage others from seeking office,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote in a statement to The Enquirer.
She also suggested that any move toward abolishing part-time courts in a particular community must come from local officials.
While other counties in Southwest Ohio have long ago gone to full-time misdemeanor courts or are looking at the possibility now, Butler County has resisted the change. The county has three area courts that cost taxpayers about $1.2 million a year to run.
“There’s always politics involved,” said Matthew Crehan, a retired Butler County Common Pleas Judge who led a 2006 study that looked at consolidating the county’s three area courts – Area I in Oxford, Area II in Hamilton, and Area III in West Chester – and making them full-time.
“You’ve got three part-time judges who have private law practices, and they get paid pretty good money for one day a week (as a judge). They get retirement and everything else,” Crehan said. “The problem is that there is just simply a natural conflict between being a lawyer and being a judge. You can’t serve two masters.”
All three Butler County Area Court judges – Rob Lyons, Dan Haughey and Kevin McDonough – say they can. By law, they aren’t allowed to practice in each other’s courts.
Lyons, who presides over the court in Oxford, was removed from the 10 drunken driving cases challenging Ohio’s alcohol breath testing procedures. Lyons had used the same approach in fighting for clients in his criminal defense practice in West Chester. (more…)