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Court News Ohio

Former Scioto County Judge Suspended for Attempt to Influence Daughter’s Speeding Ticket

A former Scioto County Common Pleas Court judge was suspended from the practice of law for six months by the Ohio Supreme Court today for attempting to influence an Ohio State Highway patrolman and juvenile court to drop a speeding charge against his daughter.

In a per curiam decision, the Supreme Court found William T. Marshall violated several rules governing the professional conduct of Ohio judges. Marshall, who was publicly reprimanded by the Court in 2015 after pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, resigned from the bench in March 2018 after acknowledging his recent conduct was inappropriate.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, Patrick F. Fischer, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart joined the opinion. Justice R. Patrick DeWine did not participate in the case.

Daughter Puts Judge on Phone with Trooper
In September 2016, Marshall’s then 17-year-old daughter, identified in court records as A.M., was stopped in Scioto County by Patrol Sergeant David Stuart. A.M. immediately identified herself as the daughter of “Judge Marshall.” During the stop she called her father and handed Stuart the phone. Stuart informed Marshall he stopped his daughter for speeding and that she was 14 mph over the speed limit and was driving with expired tags. Marshall disputed that the tags were expired. Stuart issued A.M. a speeding ticket and gave her a warning for the expired tags.

The traffic case was assigned to a juvenile court magistrate. Shortly after the assignment, Marshall attempted to discuss his daughter’s ticket with an assistant county prosecutor, who was in his courtroom on an unrelated matter. Marshall told the prosecutor that he did not like Stuart.

“I didn’t like the trooper. He didn’t listen to me. There used to be a code in this county — I’m a judge and he shouldn’t have written my daughter [a ticket],” he said.

Feeling pressured by Marshall’s insistence on talking about the ticket rather than the cases at hand in his courtroom, the assistant prosecutor asked Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Kuhn to handle A.M.’s case.

Judge Appears with Daughter
About a month after the ticket was issued, Marshall asked the magistrate to appoint an attorney to represent A.M. and during an off-the-record conversation with the magistrate, Marshall told her that the trooper was rude to him and that he “wanted to get the trooper in trouble.” The magistrate agreed to several continuances and eventually was able to conduct a pretrial conference in August 2017.

Days before a September 2017 hearing on the ticket, Marshall told Kuhn he would like to meet with Stuart, and if the prosecutor could make it happen, he would instruct his daughter to plead guilty. If the trooper did not meet with him, he said the case would go to trial.

Stuart, who was on medical leave, did not return calls from Marshall and did not meet with him. A.M.’s trial was rescheduled for November 2017, and Marshall approached Stuart before the trial and called him a vulgar name.

Stuart took the stand, and Kuhn questioned him about stopping A.M. Marshall interjected during the questioning, and the magistrate admonished Marshall for his behavior.

Judge Takes the Stand
After the close of the prosecution’s case, Marshall told A.M.’s attorney he wanted to testify. He claimed he was qualified as an expert witness regarding the calibration of police radar based on his employment as a city prosecuting attorney, a positon he last held in 1994. He testified he had “gone to the state academy on many occasions to be taught how the radar unit works.” Marshall insisted the only way Stuart could prove his radar was accurate was if Stuart brought the tuning forks he used to test the radar to court. Marshall insisted the trial be continued until that happened.

The magistrate was prepared to immediately rule in the case, but the prosecutor asked for the decision to be issued in writing and delayed. He explained that he had an upcoming felony criminal matter before Marshall and did not want an adverse decision on the ticket to impact the judge’s decision in the upcoming case.

The magistrate delayed the decision until December 2017. She found A.M. to be a juvenile traffic offender and set the final disposition hearing for January 2018. Before the final hearing, Marshall called the magistrate and asked if she ever had an expert on radar testify, arguing that she could not rule against A.M. unless an expert testified to the accuracy of the radar. The magistrate did not answer his question, and he accused her of questioning his credibility before hanging up.

The magistrate announced her decision and imposed court costs. Marshall asked if the penalty included points on A.M.’s license, and the magistrate indicated it would.

“So I have to pay the insurance for it,” Marshall stated.

Sanctions Sought for Judge’s Conduct
Three months later, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct charging Marshall with misconduct arising from his conduct in his daughter’s traffic case. The parties entered a “consent-to-discipline” agreement and stipulated that Marshall violated several judicial-conduct rules, including failing to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary, abusing the prestige of judicial office, and exhibiting  bias or prejudice in the performance of his judicial duties.

The board recommended that Marshall be suspended for six months and noted that he had resigned from the bench. The Supreme Court adopted the board’s recommendation.

2018-1433. Disciplinary Counsel v. Marshall, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-670.

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