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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hamilton County Judge Rucker's Dem Primary Opponent Gigged By Ethics Panel: O'Neill Wrongly Used 'Judge' In Campaign Material

Ex-Judge O'Neill in Downtown Cleveland
[UPDATE: 9:19 A.M. 3/1/2012 -- Hamilton County Democratic Party issues a press release that urges O'Neill to abandon any claim he is a sitting judge:  "We look forward to Mr. O’Neill running a clean and fair campaign.  While Mr. O’Neill promised Monday to make the required corrections, as of this writing on Wednesday Feb 29, his web site remains unchanged.  This is not the kind of conduct that we as Democrats should 
condone by any of our candidates, especially candidates running for a seat on the highest Court of our State.  Ohioans deserve a Supreme Court candidate who not only understands the law, but respects it as well.]  

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Toledo Blade reports that Supreme Court candidate William M. O'Neill "violated the Judicial Code of Conduct by knowingly misrepresenting himself as a sitting jurist."  The story cites a ruling by a hearing panel chaired by Guernsey County Common Pleas Judge David A. Ellwood, who wrote:  “The fact that he is known as judge because of his tenure on the 11th District Court of Appeals and that as a retired judge he is known as a judge, he nevertheless as a judicial candidate is prohibited from using the term ‘judge’ before his name in campaign materials since he does not currently hold that office…"

O'Neill, a lawyer, is a Northeast Ohio resident who ran for the Ohio Supreme Court twice and lost.  This year, he faces a March 6 primary against Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker, who is endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party.  The winner gets the nomination.  Rucker has pointed out that O'Neill has not been a judge for years.  He felt O'Neill was improperly using the title.  O'Neill told the Blade that he has spent more money on legal fees than on his campaign.  Still, it looks bad for a candiate seeking a seat on the state's top court to be accused of breaking the rules.  Judges are charged with enforcing the rules no matter how mundane or trivial, and they must obey them to the letter.  How else can judge demand others follow the law if they don't follow the law?

Blade reporter Jim Provance also noted:

"Canton-based 5th District Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Farmer, who serves as chief justice of the Courts of Appeals, must within five days appoint a panel of five fellow appellate judges to consider the lower panel’s recommendations.The hearing panel noted that a two-sided O’Neill campaign card refers to him nine times as “judge,’’ including the disclaimer of who paid for it, while describing him as “former court of appeals judge’’ once.
At last week’s hearing, Mr. O’Neill noted that then Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer had appointed him as a retired judge in 2009 to perform a marriage ceremony in Cuyahoga County, referring to him as “the Honorable William Michael O’Neill.’’ He was similarly titled on a 2011 retired judge seminar attendee list.
Mr. O’Neill said 20,000 of the campaign cards were printed and about half of them have been personally distributed. He said he will not distribute the rest and will ask via his campaign Web site for those holding the other cards to destroy them."
The Daily Bellwether just checked O'Neill's campaign website and he was still using the title "Judge," so he may be planning an appeal.  Or maybe he hasn't had time to pull down the term that implies he still holds office.  He has an impressive resume, but some Democrats feel he should give up his quest to become a Justice and step aside for new blood.  Here's what was on his site (you can see "Judge" three times) moments ago:

Judge O'Neill served ten years on the 11th District Court of Appeals from 1997 to 2007. He is a graduate of Ohio University, Cleveland Marshall College of Law and Huron School of Nursing. Before being elected and re-elected to the Court of Appeals he was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio from 1984 to 1996. He has sat by assignment on the Supreme Court of Ohio at the request of the Chief Justice. 
Judge O'Neill is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.

Judge O'Neill currently works as a Registered Nurse in the Pediatric Emergency Department of Hillcrest Hospital, an affiliate of the Cleveland Clinic. Mrs. OíNeill died in a car accident in 1995 and Judge O’Neill raised his four children as a single parent near Chagrin Falls.

And this logo calling for the election of "Judge" O'Neill still appeared on the webite:


  1. At least he didn't purport to be in his third term on Cincinnati City Council like Republican judicial candiate Leslie Ghiz. O'Neill was a judge, Rucker is a judge, and Rucker gets to use the title. Sounds fair to me.

  2. Kate the WeightMarch 01, 2012 5:25 PM

    O'Neill, like Bruce Whitman, places his own limits on campaign contributions. Doesn't that mean he's the best candidate just like Bruce?