ethics, Uncategorized

Judge’s OVI Nets Public Reprimand

On August 12, 2020, the Supreme Court of Ohio publicly reprimanded Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Monica Hawkins after her conviction for OVI, a first-degree misdemeanor. She is the third judge to be publicly reprimanded this year for such conduct.

The incident occurred on January 31, 2019 in Pickerington, Ohio, where Judge Hawkins was arrested after a citizen called 911 reporting a suspected intoxicated driver.

Judge Hawkins denied consuming alcohol stating that she just got lost while driving home. The officer that stopped her smelled alcohol, noticed a bleeding knot on her forehead and what appeared to be vomit on her coat and on the car floor. Judge Hawkins identified herself as a judge. After failing several sobriety tests, Judge Hawkins was arrested for OVI.

Judge Hawkins refused to provide a breath sample and, after the police obtained a warrant, refused to allow a blood draw to test her alcohol level. Eventually four hospital employees held her down so that the blood could be drawn. Results of the blood test showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.199, over twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Judge Hawkins pled guilty to OVI and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 87 days suspended and a $375 fine. She was permitted to complete a 72-hour driver-intervention program rather than actual jail time.

In disciplinary proceedings, the Supreme Court of Ohio found that Judge Hawkins violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.1 (failure to comply with the law) and Jud.Cond.R. 1.2 (failure to act in a manner that promotes the public confidence and independence, integrity and impartiality of the jury and to avoid the impropriety and the appearance of impropriety). (2020-Ohio-4023).

Judge Doherty violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.2 and Jud.Cond.R. 1.3 (using the prestige of the office for personal gain) for a similar violation and received a public reprimand (2020-Ohio-1422). Judge Gonzalez violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.1 and Jud.Cond.R. 1.3 for similar behavior, and, likewise, received a public reprimand (2020-Ohio-3259). Judge Marshall violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.1, Jud.Cond.R. 1.2 and Prof.Cond.R. 84.(h) for similar conduct and received a public reprimand (2015-Ohio-1187).


Judges Driving Under The Influence

It has, yet again, been a busy week for judicial disciplinary charges this week.

Portage County Common Pleas Court Judge Becky Doherty may face further disciplinary action as a result of an OVI case brought against her.  On February 2019, Judge Doherty was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after she drove a vehicle belonging to an Akron woman off a snowy on-ramp to Interstate 76 eastbound at Route 43 in Brimfield and crashed into a ditch at about 9:15 p.m.  She later pled guilty to the charge, a first-degree misdemeanor.

As a result, on May 20, 2019, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed disciplinary charges against Judge Doherty with the Board of Professional Conduct requesting sanctions against her for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  She was charged with failure to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary and failure to avoid the appearance of impropriety.  The formal hearing on the matter will occur on October 22, 2019.

Chief Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Joe Caligiuri stated that the sanction on this first offense will likely be a stayed suspension or a public reprimand.

In the meantime, the office of Disciplinary Counsel also filed disciplinary charges against Franklin County Domestic Relations Court Judge Monica Hawkins for her conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol.  Hawkins was arrested in Pickerington on January 31, 2019, with a blood-alcohol level of .199%, nearly twice the legal limit.  Judge Hawkins informed the arresting officer that she was a judge and said she had not been drinking.  She was later convicted of the charge.  The Office of Disciplinary Counsel charged her with failing to comply with the law and failing to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary, violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  The charges could result in the suspension of her license to practice law.  A suspension carries a heavy penalty as it means that she would also be suspended from the bench as a requirement for holding judicial office is to be able to practice law in Ohio.