In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended disgraced former 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Tim Horton’s law license indefinitely. The precedent-setting ruling found that Horton’s resignation from the bench and 10-day jail sentence for multiple misconduct violations, including sexual harassment, didn’t go far enough.
The three-count complaint against Horton included inappropriate sexual conduct against two women, campaign finance violations and use of county resources and staff for campaign purposes during work hours. Justices acknowledged in their decision that there was no precedent because of the wide range of violations of both the Rules of Professional Conduct and Code of Judicial Conduct.
Their decision stated, “The ABA’s [American Bar Association’s] Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct recognized more than a decade ago that ‘sexual harassment deserves special mention, given the significance of the problem.’ The large scope of the problem, its detrimental impact on individual victims and the public at large, and the distrust created when charges are brought against members of the judiciary are even more evident today than they were in 2007.”
Accusations included, “…directing inappropriate sexual comments and conduct to members of his staff from the summer of 2013 until the autumn of 2014,” against both his secretary and an intern.
The former judge was found guilty and sent to jail for his campaign violations in March. “Judge Timothy Horton heads to jail for lavish parties with campaign money,” WTTE Fox 28 tweeted.
— WTTE FOX 28 (@fox28columbus) March 18, 2017
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote, “We take seriously our responsibility for setting precedent concerning Jud.Cond.R. 2.3 [which includes sexual harassment], and we agree with the board that an indefinite suspension is the sanction that will best serve to protect the public by deterring the kind of damaging conduct present here.”
“A severe sanction is necessary to protect the public from future harm and to impress upon Horton and the rest of the state’s judiciary that campaign-finance violations, abuse of public resources and trust, and sexual harassment and misconduct by judges will not be condoned,” she added.
“Indefinite suspension” does not mean an attorney can never have his license to practice law returned. In Horton’s case, the seven Ohio Supreme Court Justices gave the following conditions for reinstatement:
Horton is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Ohio with reinstatement conditioned on his (1) continued participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, (2) submission to a new OLAP [Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program] evaluation and compliance with any treatment and counseling recommendations arising from the evaluation, (3) not contacting the former female employees and interns who testified in those proceedings, and (4) payment of the costs of these proceedings. Costs are taxed to Horton.”
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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star. Follow Beth on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tim Horton” by Franklin County Sheriff and background photo “Ohio Supreme Court” by Joffre Essley CC2.0.