► Columbus Dispatch – 05/30/01 – 5 judges made clerical errors but didn’t steal, attorney says Print E-mail

Columbus Dispatch – May 30, 2001 – 5 judges made clerical errors but didn’t steal, attorney says

5 judges made clerical errors but didn't steal, attorney says
Wednesday, May 30, 2001
Jon Craig
Dispatch Statehouse Reporter
Pounding his fist on the table, former Supreme Court Justice J. Craig Wright said it's criminal to accuse retired judges of stealing taxpayer's money.
"This is a real outrage," Wright said before tossing over a file that contained the case against Judge Joseph B. Grigsby of Marysville. "Grisgby's put his life in public service…I'm furious about it."
Wright is hardly a disinterested observer to the string of felony charges filed against visiting judges across Ohio--he is defending five today on theft-in-office charges.
Wright said all the mistakes attributed to his clients are clerical errors.
"There's no evidence of deception or fraud," he said. "These matters should be dismissed."
A total of nine retired visiting judges face 57 felony theft-in-office charges before Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Anne Taylor.
Visiting judges are assigned by Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer when a regular judge cannot preside over a case. The visiting judges are paid a daily stipend plus expenses, but several now stand accused of double-dipping: collecting a stipend and expenses from more than one county for a single day's work.
A spokesman for Moyer yesterday said a new compensation form and improved tracking system to eliminate duplicate payments will be instituted soon.
"Certainly this summer. August at the latest," Jay Wuebbold said. "There were some clerical errors."
Independent of the criminal charges, the Supreme Court's own check of records has found 10 judges overpaid a total of $8,973 during the last two years, Wuebbold said. As of yesterday, those judges had repaid $7,060 to the state, he said.
Wright also is defending retired common pleas Judges Phillip A. Baird of Medina, June Rose Galvin of Marblehead, Richard B. McQuade, Jr. of Swanton and Robert G. Wilson of Bryan.
Complainant David Palmer of Powell says the part-time judges overbilled 32 counties for at least $50,000 in daily stipends, meals and lodging.
"I want to see proof of the court errors," Palmer said yesterday. "Make the records available."
Palmer said he will ask Taylor to dismiss the charges he lodged against visiting judges William Chinnock of Westlake, Judith Cross of Medina and Harry Hanna of University Heights because of apparent bookkeeping errors made by court officials. The trio has returned a total of $1,620 to the Supreme Court for improper payments.
"It's not fair to leave these judges that are honest with clouds over them," Palmer said.
Galvin said she was shocked by Palmer's accusations. "You don't deliberately do anything like this. You don't risk (a career) for a meal here or a meal there."
Wright said Galvin "kept her time by the minutes, then literally by the hours. She's a nice lady and honest as she can be."
"I realize Mr. Palmer has problems with the system," Wright said. "However, I think it is most unfortunate he has attacked four men and a woman who have devoted their lives to public service."
In a letter sent last week to the Supreme Court, Wilson wrote, "It has been a matter of great embarrassment to my wife, my family and myself. My career and reputation have been ruined. As a result of the extensive publicity given this matter, I will always be regarded as a convicted thief."
In his response to Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor David M. Buchman, Wilson also attached a history of prior litigation involving Palmer, including a profanity-laced letter Palmer wrote to Moyer on October 25, 1999.


In a sworn statement, Wilson wrote, "This abuse of the criminal justice system is a result of (Palmer's) vendetta against those in the judiciary who have apparently not ruled in his favor. The intimidation factor of his actions should not be ignored."


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