A public reprimand may be in store for Akron Municipal Court Judge Kathryn Michael.
The Ohio Supreme Courts Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline recommends a public reprimand after finding that Michael made a "serious violation" in the Code of Judicial Conduct when she suggested to a defendant pleased with his sentence that she was seeking a "promotion" and that he could tell his family about her.
Michael is on the ballot, running for Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge against Judge Tammy O'Brien, who currently holds the position.
The defendant had previously thanked Michael for "helping him out," which Michael clarified to the board only consisted of her accepting a plea deal. This is the exchange that took place immediately after:
JUDGE MICHAEL: I'm suspending 175 days on the basis that you obey all laws for the next year and I'm going
to credit you the five days that you've served to satisfy all your fines and costs, okay. You don't owe us any money.
Just stay out of trouble for the next year and you don't have to worry about me reimposing 175 days.
THE WITNESS: Yes.
JUDGE MICHAEL: Tell all your family how you feel about me because I'm running this year for Common Pleas Court.
THE WITNESS: Okay.
JUDGE MICHAEL: Okay. Thank you.
THE WITNESS: Oh, you trying to go for Common Pleas
JUDGE MICHAEL: lam. I'm trying to go for my promotion, so--
THE WITNESS: I got you.
JUDGE MICHAEL: --tell all your family.
THE WITNESS: Okay. Thank you. Thank you.
During the official hearing with the panel, Michael emphasized that the remarks were light hearted and sarcastic, but a poor choice that she regrets. She insists that there was no intent to imply that she would trade light sentences for votes.
The board stated that Michael deserved a public reprimand because monetary sanctions may not make a difference, since Michael already paid more than $3,600 in fines and costs for a different complaint earlier this year.
The board is not making a recommendation for punishment against Michael on another complaint after finding that it was not proven. Michael does not deny written statements that O'Brien holds a position that was "not earned," but does deny she broke any rules. She's referring to O'Brien being appointed to the bench, rather than being elected to the now-contested post.
The Ohio Supreme Court has appointed a separate panel to consider the disciplinary panel's recommendations.