The City of Washington Court House is paying alternate acting judges to hear cases in the municipal court represented by Susan Wollscheid, the Ohio public defense attorney challenging Judge Victor Pontious Jr. in this year’s primary election.
Pontious, the current Washington C.H. Municipal Court Judge, said he will continue to step out of the courtroom when Wollscheid brings clients in until after the May 2 election is held. Wollscheid and Pontious have both filed Republican judicial candidacy petitions with the Fayette County Board of Elections and have been approved for the primary ballot.
The city paid $1,597.40 to acting judges in December and January to preside over cases on days when Wollscheid represented clients in municipal court.
After Wollscheid announced in November that she was a judge candidate, Pontious said it was necessary to have alternate judges preside over Wollscheid’s cases in municipal court to assure the proceedings are fair for her clients.
“That way her clients can’t say, ‘Well, he gave me a more severe punishment than the other guy because she was my attorney,’” said Pontious.
Acting judges Dallas Brent Marshall and David L. Owens presided over Wollscheid’s cases in municipal court in January and February.
Dallas Brent Marshall was paid a total of $1,141 for serving one full day and three half days as acting judge. Marshall is a lawyer and magistrate in Fayette County.
David L. Owens was paid a total of $456.40 for serving two half days as acting judge. Owens is a lawyer and magistrate from Madison County.
The payroll history report for the acting judges was obtained from the City of Washington Court House’s finance director, Tom Riley.
William B. McCracken, a retired judge from the Clinton County Municipal Court who was formerly appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court, is another alternate judge who may be available to serve as acting judge over cases in which conflicts of interest may arise, said Riley.
Wollscheid told the Record-Herald that she does not think there is a conflict of interest in Pontious presiding over her municipal court cases during the election.
“I think he’s more than capable of being fair and impartial and I don’t think the election has anything to do with the cases,” said Wollscheid.
The Ohio Supreme Court’s Code of Judicial Conduct that establishes ethical standards for judges states that a judge “shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
Pontious said the measure to excuse himself from Wollscheid’s proceedings and pay acting judges is not required by law, but will assure that Wollscheid’s clients have a fair court proceeding.
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton
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