Ohio Judge Dale Crawford: Disqualified in High Profile Case as Appearances Matter

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The integrity of the judicial system should matter - there was the potential for an appearance of impropriety so Judge Crawford was removed.

Ohio Judge Dale Crawford: Disqualified in High Profile Case as Appearances Matter

The Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice granted disqualification of a judge

In July 2015, a jury convicted Mr. Kraus—who was, at the time, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives—of theft from an elderly person. In December 2016, the Sixth District Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. State v. Kraus, 2016-Ohio-8003, 74 N.E.3d 880 (6th Dist.). In early 2017, Mr. Kraus filed a motion for new trial, a petition to vacate his conviction, and several amendments to the petition. In his filings, Mr. Kraus argues, based on newly discovered e-mails from the Ottawa County prosecuting attorney’s office, that the state of Ohio failed to turn over evidence that he could have used for a selective prosecution defense. For example, Mr. Kraus asserts that a recently released e-mail shows that although the Ottawa County prosecuting attorney had purportedly recused himself from Mr. Kraus’s criminal investigation, the prosecutor communicated with Chris Redfern, who was Mr. Kraus’s 2014 election opponent, about the investigation before Mr. Kraus was indicted. In Mr. Kraus’s words, his recent filings contain “strong evidence of interference with criminal proceedings for political purposes.” Mr. Kraus also asserts that he submitted “evidence of a close social relationship” between Mr. Redfern and Judge Crawford that predates Mr. Kraus’s conviction.

While finding that the judge could be fair and impartial, there was the potential for an appearance of impropriety

Here, Mr. Kraus describes his recent filings as setting forth serious allegations of possible collusive activities for political purposes by the Ottawa County prosecuting attorney, the special prosecutor ultimately assigned to the underlying case, and Chris Redfern. Judge Crawford admits that since Mr. Kraus’s criminal trial, he has socialized with Mr. Redfern and his wife “numerous times,” that a person with whom the judge shares his boat is a “close personal friend” of Mr. Redfern, and that Mr. Redfern has been on the judge’s boat. Given Judge Crawford’s recent familiarity with Mr. Redfern and given the current allegations involving Mr. Redfern, an objective observer might question the ability of Judge Crawford to impartially decide Mr. Kraus’s pending matters. See In re Disqualification of Lewis, 117 Ohio St.3d 1227, 2004-Ohio-7359, 884 N.E.2d 1082, ¶ 8 (explaining that an appearance of impropriety exists “if a reasonable and objective observer would harbor serious doubts about the judge’s impartiality”). Further, considering that Mr. Kraus’s current allegations involve public officials and the integrity of the judicial process, it is best that a visiting judge with no personal connections to the parties or related individuals presides over the pending posttrial issues.

Source: Professional Legal Blog