Judge O'Neill Has A Question For Justices Cupp and O'Donnell

O'Neill Files Grievance With Disciplinary Counsel
August 7, 2012

On August 6, 2012, former Judge William M. O'Neill of the 11th District Court of Appeals filed a formal grievance with Disciplinary Counsel Jonathan Coughlan naming Justices Robert Cupp and Terrance O'Donnell of the Ohio Supreme Court as respondents. The grievance alleges a violation of Canon 1 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct.

Canon 1 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that "A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety, and the appearance of impropriety."

On January 17, 2012 oral arguments were held before the Ohio Supreme Court in the case of Wimmer v. Pub. Util. Comm., 131 Ohio St.3rd 283. Ohio Edison, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Energy Corporation, was the real party in interest in the case. Their counsel participated in the oral argument.

Two weeks later on January 30, First Energy Corporation, through their political PAC, contributed $6,300 to the re-election campaign of Justice Cupp; and $6,300 to the re-election campaign of Justice O'Donnell.

Four weeks later, on February 29, Justices Cupp and O'Donnell joined a majority opinion which rendered final judgment in favor of Ohio Edison and its parent corporation, First Energy.

"Canon 1 clearly prohibits the "appearance of impropriety" by a Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court," Judge O'Neill said. "At a minimum, these two justices should have either refused to accept any contributions from a party to a matter currently on their docket or recused themselves from any matter pertaining to a party who had just made a collective $12,600 contribution to their re-election campaigns."

Judge O'Neill has requested a full investigation be made by the Disciplinary Counsel into the allegations of inappropriate campaign contributions resulting in the violation of Canon 1 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct.

"It is the responsibility of all Judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety through whatever means necessary," Judge O'Neill said. "In this situation both Justice Cupp and Justice O'Donnell failed to meet that responsibility. By neither refusing the funds nor recusing themselves from the case, Justices Cupp and O'Donnell created an unmistakable appearance of impropriety which threatens the integrity of the Ohio Judicial System."

A formal grievance with Disciplinary Counsel was filled at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, August 6, 2012. According to the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Disciplinary Process is confidential. Judge O'Neill will refrain from commenting on the investigation as it is ongoing, but intends to speak freely on an apparent breach of confidence created within the Ohio Judicial System by the Justices.

For further information contact Christopher Clevenger, Director of Communications.

Christopher Clevenger
Director of Communications
O'Neill for Ohio Supreme Court

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