State panel recommends fines for Middletown judge candidate

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State panel recommends fines for Middletown judge candidate

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Attorney James Sherron, a candidate for Middletown Municipal Court judge, testifies Nov. 1 before an Ohio Board of Professional Conduct hearing panel on improper judicial campaign violations. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

UPDATE @ 3:30 p.m.

Judge Melynda Cook-Howard deferred any comment on the matter to Butler County Republican Party chairman Todd Hall.

“James Sherron was fined today for ethics violations in his campaign, and appropriately so,” Hall said. “Our voters expect higher standards from those running for office, particularly judicial candidates. Mr. Sherron’s campaign misconduct will give many voters pause as to his ability to be an effective judge, as his lack of proper judgment has become a glaring campaign issue all to itself.”

The Butler County Republican Party endorsed Sherron for the appointment last April.

INITIAL REPORT:

An Ohio Board of Professional Conduct hearing panel has recommended that a candidate for Middletown Municipal Court judge be fined for two counts of judicial campaign violations.

The panel, which heard the allegations against Middletown attorney James Sherron on Nov. 1, filed its recommendation with the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday.

It recommended a fine of $600 for a resume posted on Facebook that stated Sherron was licensed to practice in all federal courts; a fine of $200 for two different versions of an invitation that falsely identified Sherron as a “Middletown Municipal Court Judge;” and paying the costs of the proceedings.

The panel also stated that, “in view of the fact that the misconduct has ceased, the panel sees no reason why the Supreme Court should consider this case on an expedited basis or why the five-judge commission appointed to review this matter should enter an interim cease and desist order,” according to the 16-page recommendation.

The panel noted Sherron’s “sincere expressions of remorse and complete responsibility for his violations.”

At last week’s hearing, Sherron took responsibility for the violations that were filed by incumbent Middletown Municipal Court Judge Melynda Cook-Howard and Marilyn Hatfield, a member of the Butler County Republican Central Committee. It was noted that Sherron had cooperated with the investigation and stipulated to the allegations and that they were true. However, both parties agreed to a fine and cost for the proceedings but could not come to an agreement on the amount of the fine.

Sherron said the panel’s recommendation “was pretty much what we expected.”

“I think it was appropriate,” he said. “I admitted the clerical errors and I think that’s how it was interpreted by the panel.”

Last week, Sherron said he was not become aware of the violations until the grievance was filed against him. He said the resume on his Facebook campaign page was corrected as soon as he was notified.

During the testimony, Sherron also admitted he did not closely review the same resume which was also submitted to Gov. John Kasich during the appointment process last May to fill the vacancy created by the death Judge Mark Wall in February. That appointment went to Cook-Howard.

Sherron, Cook-Howard and local attorney Elizabeth Yauch are running to fill Wall’s unexpired term.

While Sherron’s case remains pending before the Supreme Court, a similar grievance is being considered against Cook-Howard.

Sherron said he was reviewing information on Cook-Howard’s Facebook campaign page which indicates that she is the current elected judge of Middletown Municipal Court. The Facebook campaign page also notes that the current term expires on Dec. 31, 2017.

“I’m reviewing the matter as I think there are some issues,” Sherron said.

Sherron said he “did not want to make it a political issue” which is why he is waiting until after Tuesday’s election to take any action.

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