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Cops and Courts

Burge seeking return of law license


Former Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reinstate his license to practice law.

Burge’s law license was suspended in April after jurors found him guilty of three felony counts of tampering with records and three misdemeanor charges of falsification.

Felony convictions automatically trigger a license suspension in Ohio, but Visiting Judge Dale Crawford has since reduced the felonies Burge was convicted of to misdemeanors because of a flaw in how the jury verdict forms were prepared.

Under Ohio law, verdict forms must contain the level of the offense or the jury is presumed to have found the defendant guilty of the least form of the offense, which in a tampering with records case is a first-degree misdemeanor. Crawford has said he prepared the entry forms and the mistake was his alone.

Burge, who declined to comment Friday, could still face disciplinary action because of his conviction. He has said he may appeal the guilty verdicts but has not done so.

If he successfully gets his conviction overturned, Burge, who resigned following the jury verdict, has said he might run for judge again in 2016.

The case against Burge centered on whether he had an interest in Whiteacre North, which owns 600 Broadway, a Lorain office building where several attorneys who appeared before the judge have their legal practices.

Crawford dismissed charges that Burge improperly approved payments to the building’s attorneys for their representation of indigent criminal defendants between February and June 2011. Burge and his partners had sold the building to attorney Shimane Smith when he became a judge in 2007, but the deal fell apart and control of the company reverted to Burge and his partners.

Burge has said he transferred his ownership interest in the company to his wife for $1 when he realized that.

Ultimately, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office was only able to convict Burge of discrepancies on his financial disclosure forms. Burge was fined $3,000.

Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, has yet to name someone to replace Burge, a Democrat. Lorain County Republicans will recommend several possible choices to Kasich. Whoever takes over the seat will have to run in 2016 to serve the remaining two years of Burge’s term. The seat also will be contested in the 2018 election.

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

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