► Columbus Dispatch – 05/31/01 – Retired visiting judges cleared of theft charges Print E-mail

Columbus Dispatch – May 31, 2001 – Retired visiting judges cleared of theft charges

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Jon Craig

Dispatch Statehouse Reporter

 

A FranklinCounty judges yesterday tossed out 57 felony theft charges against nine visiting judges pending further investigation by the FranklinCounty prosecutor's office.

 

In a hearing that had all the drama of courtroom television--sans cameras--Municipal Court Judge Anne Taylor dismissed every criminal charge lodged earlier this month by David Palmer of Powell. Taylor ruled, after agreeing with Assistant Prosecutor David M. Buchman, that further details about the Ohio Supreme Court's system of paying appointed retired judges are needed.

 

After the hearing, Palmer promised to dog Buchman and the court to ensure that any evidence of double-billing by the visiting judges is prosecuted.

 

In the five weeks since Palmer's first allegations, more than $7,000 in daily stipends have been repaid by eight judges--including five of the accused.

 

"I think there were billing errors," Buchman told Taylor. "Whether that's a criminal matter of not, I don't know. Out of fairness to Mr. Palmer, these (charges) are not totally straws pulled out of the air. Mistakes were made by the judges themselves or by the Supreme Court."

 

Attorney Dennis W. McNamara was joined in defending retired visiting judges yesterday by former Ohio Supreme Court Justice J. Craig Wright and Michael L. Close, a former common pleas and appellate judge.

 

Close, representing Judge Stephen Yarbrough of Sylvania on 24 theft-in-office charges, said, "He was the busiest judge in the state."

 

Close said Yarbrough traveled 200 days a year, sometimes worked weekends, and never billed for a trip he did not take.

 

"It's impossible, too, for these people to get their honor back," Close said.

 

"I believe judges already have been wrongly accused," said McNamara, who was armed with an enlarged image of a compensation report. It showed a barely legible date, proving work by Judge William F. Chinnock of Westlake.

 

Wright took the podium to give an impassioned speech that ended with his getting choked up about allegations against Judge Joseph B. Grigsby, 83, of Marysville.

 

"There wasn't any oberbilling of the court. There was overpaying," Wright said. "I hope this is the end of this, because it's a disgrace."

 

Palmer agreed to dismiss charges against three judges who returned money because of clerical errors and withdraw charges against six other judges. Buchman said he could refile charges later, on behalf of Palmer, after examining records he has requested from the Supreme Court.

 

"It's taken a long time with 50" charges, Buchman said. "Palmer says there are 5,000 cases he is interest in. I'll certainly work with the man."

 

Afterward, Palmer said, "These complaints are merely being re-evaluated by Buchman and myself once records from the Supreme Court are obtained, and if warranted they will be refiled."

 

Retired Judge Robert G. Wilson of Bryan issued a statement that said, "With the dismissal of the charges against me, a judicial career of 32 years as a sitting and visiting judge comes to an end. Unlawfully accused by an unsuccessful and vexatious litigant, unfairly charged by the media, I leave this office. All the lawsuits filed against me by my accuser have either been dismissed or withdrawn."

 

Other judges cleared of all felony theft charges yesterday were Phillip A. Baird and Judith A Cross, both of Medina; June Rose Galvin of Marblehead; Harry A. Hanna of University Heights; and Richard B. McQuade, Jr. of Swanton.

 

 

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