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Published: Tuesday, 8/17/2004

Federal judge blocks grievance investigation


CLEVELAND A federal judge yesterday issued a 10-day temporary restraining order that prevents the Ohio Supreme Court s disciplinary counsel from investigating a grievance filed against a judicial candidate.

Appellate Judge William O Neill of Warren has challenged the constitutionality of portions of the high court s rules for behavior of judicial candidates.

Judge O Neill, a Democrat, is running against Republican Judge Terrence O Donnell. Judge O Donnell is seeking to complete the two years remaining in the term he was appointed to last year.

Although the Office of Disciplinary Counsel has said any review of the grievance filed by the Cuyahoga County Republican Party is in the early stages, Judge O Neill said he felt he must take action now.

By opening an investigation, they send a message to the world that I somehow have done something wrong, he said. My candidacy is built upon volunteers. No lawyers in their right mind would join the O Neill for Justice Committee if they thought they were putting themselves into the danger zone.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich granted Judge O Neill s motion for a restraining order after an hour-long hearing. She ordered additional briefs by Aug. 30 and left the door open for the restraining order to be extended.

The Ohio State Bar Association s Judicial Election Campaign Advertising Monitoring Committee said the judge impugned the integrity of the judiciary. The judge said in campaign materials that we must stop selling seats on the Ohio Supreme Court like you sell a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

The judge maintains that the judicial rules violate his right to free speech.

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