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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2007

Toledo judge removed from 'stare-down' case

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Judge Robert Christiansen of Toledo Municipal Court no longer will preside over the case of a man he accused of trying to intimidate him through a stare-down, another judge ruled yesterday.

Lucas County Probate Judge Jack Puffenberger, who is the presiding judge of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, decided that because a "reasonable person may question whether the judge will be fair and impartial toward the defendant at future stages of the proceedings," a new judge should be assigned to the case against Shane Leu.

Judge Puffenberger then directed that the case be randomly reassigned to another judge.

"To avoid even an appearance of bias, prejudice, or impropriety, and to ensure the parties, their counsel, and the public the unquestioned neutrality of an impartial judge, it is ordered that Judge Christiansen participate no further in these proceedings," the judge wrote in the entry filed yesterday in Municipal Court.

Judge Christiansen, who staff said was out until tomorrow, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Attorney Ronnie Wingate filed the motion to dismiss the judge after a recent courtroom confrontation landed his client in jail.

According to the motion, Judge Christiansen accused Mr. Leu of trying to stare him down June 26 and so revoked his recognizance bonds, replacing them with a total of $60,000 in bonds.

Mr. Leu, who was charged with one count each of domestic violence, assault, and child endangering, was released three days later after a 6th District Court of Appeals decision labeled Judge Christiansen's actions "unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious."

The appellate court ruled there was "no evidence of changed circumstances that would warrant the alteration of the petitioner's bond" and called Judge Christiansen's decision an abuse of discretion.

The next time Mr. Leu appeared in court, Judge Christiansen again ordered him into custody, saying that he had violated conditions of his bond because he had been arrested on another charge while his case was pending.

Mr. Wingate already had filed his motion to disqualify at the time of Mr. Leu's second incarceration. He was not in custody as of yesterday. Mr. Wingate was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Judge Puffenberger noted in his judgment entry that in most cases where a judge is disqualified there exists friction between the attorney and the judge.

In this matter, he wrote, it was "the defendant's conduct in the courtroom [that] provoked the judge to revoke his bond."

Judge Puffenberger added that the "personal nature" of the conflict between Mr. Leu and Judge Christiansen is such that the judge's removal was appropriate.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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