Ohio Supreme Court investigating complaint of misconduct against southwest Ohio judge

Greene County Probate Judge Tom O’Diam
Greene County Probate Judge Tom O’Diam

A complaint alleging misconduct by Greene County Probate Judge Thomas O’Diam was filed last week with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct of the Ohio Supreme Court.

The complaint alleges misconduct by O’Diam in relation to a 2019 incident where he spoke harshly to someone in his courtroom who had attended a Greene County Commission meeting in 2019 and said he thought O’Diam “should recuse himself from cases in which ‘family members’ represent parties.”

The complaint says O’Diam’s conduct violated the judicial code that states “a judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers ... and others with whom the judge deals with in an official capacity.”

The complaint was filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel on March 29. The office received a grievance, and after reviewing it, determined there was credible evidence of possible misconduct that should be considered by the board, said Richard Dove, director of the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct. The initial grievance is not a public record.

The board asked O’Diam to respond by April 19 and a hearing will be scheduled after he responds.

Calls were placed to Thomas O’Diam’s attorney, Joe Borchelt. Thomas O’Diam declined to comment on the complaint.

Grant David Buccalo, whose mother’s estate was being handled by O’Diam & Estess Law Group Inc., which is the law firm where O’Diam’s daughter Brittany O’Diam practices, made comments to Greene County commissioners in May 2019 that Buccalo didn’t think the probate judge’s daughter should be allowed to practice in front of him.

Brittany O’Diam has represented clients in her father’s court on 45 occasions over the past seven years without Thomas O’Diam recusing himself. In all of those cases, Brittany O’Diam has filed a waiver of disqualification, a form which all parties sign acknowledging the judge’s potential conflict of interest and agreeing to proceed.

ExploreOhio Supreme Court rules in Greene County dispute with judge

Buccalo told commissioners: “Justice depends on the appearance as well as the reality of fairness in all things. Otherwise, it erodes public confidence in the legal system.” He went on to tell county commissioners people need to feel that they “got a fair shake” when they leave the courtroom, and that it “wasn’t rigged.” Buccalo did not specifically mention his mother’s estate case or express concern about his own involvement with O’Diam. Buccalo told commissioners he planned to file a grievance with O’Diam, court documents state.

According to the complaint, after learning about those statements to the county commissioners, O’Diam set a status conference for Buccalo’s estate case. At this status conference, O’Diam played the recording of Buccalo’s comments at the county commission meeting and questioned Buccalo for almost an hour, court documents say. Thomas O’Diam then let Brittany O’Diam question Buccalo, too.

Thomas O’Diam told Buccalo he took the comments to county commissioners personally and also accused Buccalo of proceeding to “trash” him, according to court documents. Buccalo, who is diabetic, asked for water and they would not give him any. Buccalo cried on the stand while being questioned, according to the complaint.

“It was not a good time,” he told this news outlet.

Buccalo said he’s glad the court is taking a look at this case. He said he did not file the grievance.

“I hope justice takes place,” Buccalo said.

O’Diam has been the county probate judge since 2013. Before that, O’Diam was a probate attorney for 28 years.

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