Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert Rusu, Jr. was publicly reprimanded for presiding over several cases in which he formerly represented a party. Appointed to the bench in July, 2014, Rusu was elected into office later that year. Upon taking judicial office, Judge Rusu neglected to inform some of his clients that he would no longer be representing them in the legal matters.
In one matter, Mr. Rusu represented an executor of an estate. When he took judicial office, he informed his client he could no longer represent her but referred her to his law office associate who assumed her representation. Judge Rusu ultimately adopted a Magistrate’s Decision regarding the matter. He indicated that he did not believe his presiding over the matter would be a problem because all parties were represented by counsel, they resolved the matter and they never formally appeared before him. According to the disciplinary case, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel identified approximately 170 cases in which Mr. Rusu represented a client and later took some action in their case while a Judge in Probate Court. Approximately 120 of those cases involved a deputy clerk issuing form letters using a stamp to place the Judge’s signature on the letter.
Additionally, the disciplinary complaint alleged that Judge Rusu failed to notify many of his clients with dormant cases that he had been appointed to the bench, thereby denying them the opportunity to be advised to obtain replacement counsel or to request the return of their files.
Because there was no evidence that Mr. Rusu’s former clients were harmed or that their cases resulted in anything less than evenhanded justice, Judge Rusu was given a public reprimand for this misconduct.