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Cops and Courts

Ohio Supreme Court suspends Burge's law license

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ELYRIA — The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended the law license of Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge.

The court order came a day after Burge sent Gov. John Kasich a letter of resignation, which will take effect Monday.

“It’s something that I expected,” Burge said Wednesday after the order was handed down because of his conviction on felony tampering with records charges. A jury also found Burge guilty of misdemeanor falsification charges last week.

The allegations against the judge focused on his links to Whiteacre North, which owns 600 Broadway, a Lorain office building where several local attorneys who have appeared before Burge base their legal practices.

Burge has been disqualified from serving on the bench since he was indicted in September and a visiting judge has been handling his docket.

He said he doesn’t plan to retire and wants to remain useful, although he won’t be able to work in the law unless the Supreme Court lifts the suspension.

“I’m going to try to do something productive that doesn’t involve the law,” Burge said.

The Supreme Court also ordered that its disciplinary arm launch an investigation into Burge.

The judge has acknowledged in the past that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel already is investigating several complaints against him, although he’s never been brought up on ethics charges.

Visiting Judge Dale Crawford, who presided over Burge’s trial, has set a sentencing date of May 14 in the criminal case against Burge, who remains free on bond. Burge could potentially receive a prison sentence in the case.

Crawford issued an order Wednesday to have the Cuyahoga County Probation Department conduct a presentence investigation into Burge’s background before the May hearing. While he was administrative judge, Burge oversaw the Lorain County Adult Probation Department, which conducts presentence investigations in the county.

Lorain County Republicans also are gearing up to recommend a replacement to fill Burge’s spot to Kasich. Although Burge is a Democrat, the Republican Kasich by law will appoint his replacement.

Lorain County Republican Party Chairwoman Helen Hurst has said several people have expressed interest in Burge’s job.

None of the county’s sitting Republican judges, Avon Lake Municipal Court Judge Darrell Bilancini, county Domestic Relations Judge Debra Boros or Elyria Municipal Court judges Gary Bennett and Lisa Locke Graves, plan to seek the job.

Both Bennett and Locke Graves are seeking re-election this year.

“I’m very happy with the job I have,” Locke Graves said Wednesday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.



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