Saturday, July 17, 2004

Mason judge wants review

Critics seeking to oust official

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - Tired of the allegations of judicial misbehavior lobbed at him, Mason Municipal Court Judge George M. Parker has asked the Ohio Supreme Court's grievance committee to investigate complaints made against him at a meeting earlier this week.

Mason City Council's court liaison committee said that it would research whether a mayor's court or a countywide court system would be better than the current legal system Mason uses.

Parker's letter will go to the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel. That office reviews about 2,500 complaints a year. About 35 to 40 are substantiated, and most end up disciplined.

It is rare for a person to request an investigation into his own actions, said Chris Davey, a spokesman for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Mason council members say a growing number of people want to oust Parker, a first-term judge whose tenure has been plagued by controversy over everything from staffing moves to court rules.

"I do not take claims of misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance with respect to my duties lightly," Parker wrote in a press release given to the media Friday. "It is my firm belief that these charges will not be substantiated."

Parker's release stated that he doesn't have a problem with council reviewing what will be the best court for Mason, but added: "... City Council should not use these issues as factors when determining what form, if any, the court should have."

Disbanding the municipal court can only be done by an act of the Legislature.

Many of the allegations against Parker were aired in a meeting in downtown Cincinnati Wednesday. Parker was not at the meeting, but reviewed a recording of it.

Then, based on what he heard, Parker wrote up a list of the perceived grievances and asked the Ohio Supreme Court for a review.

Grievances listed are:

• Parker's requiring police officers to appear in court for all hearings, a rule that was later altered.

• Parker's dismissal of a drug case allegedly based on opinion, rather than a crime lab report.

• Parker forcing a convicted drug user to name the person who sold her drugs, thus allegedly endangering the woman's life and interrupting a police investigation.

• Parker taking a defendant's walking cane, which had been used in a crime, then forcing the man to walk across the courtroom.

• Parker ordering the clerk's office to withhold people's subpoenas until three days before their court dates in an alleged effort to make prosecutor's work more difficult.

• And, finally, a general grievance in which Parker is accused of belittling behavior and make disparaging and demeaning statements to the prosecutor, defense attorneys, law enforcement and defendants. Such behavior, accusers say, makes law officers unwilling to do their job so as not to deal with the court.

After listing the grievances, Parker tells the court, "No formal interactive meetings between any member of the (city's) Court Advisory Committee and the court have taken place. No presentation for explanation or clarification of these issues has been presented to the court."

If the disciplinary counsel reviews the grievances, its investigation will be confidential, according to Ohio law. Only the outcome of investigations is made public.

The disciplinary counsel, according to Ohio Supreme Court records, has never before investigated any complaints about Parker.

"I will continue to search for better ways to do my job," Parker wrote. "I will continue to do that job as I have been trained and as the law requires that I do it."


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