Former Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge doesn’t believe his law license should have been suspended, but he has complied with an order from the Ohio Supreme Court that he complete several hours of legal training.
The Supreme Court suspended Burge’s license in April after a jury found him guilty of three felony counts of tampering with records and three misdemeanor charges of falsification. The felony counts were later reduced to misdemeanors because of an error in how Visiting Judge Dale Crawford prepared the verdict forms used by the jury in the case.
The law licenses of attorneys and judges who are convicted of felonies are automatically suspended by the Supreme Court, but Burge wrote in court documents filed Monday that he was never technically convicted of a felony.
Burge wrote that until he was sentenced, he wasn’t formally convicted, and therefore his suspension was based only on the guilty verdicts, not his conviction, which was for misdemeanor charges only.
The Supreme Court, Burge wrote, didn’t receive the formal notice that he had been convicted until 43 days after it imposed the suspension, which Burge has asked to be lifted.
The Supreme Court later told Burge that he needed to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to file an affidavit saying he was complying with the terms of his suspension, including taking legal education classes.
Burge noted in his filing this week that he has since taken classes on both ethics and defending DUI cases.
The case against Burge centered on whether he reported his links to Whiteacre North, a property management company that owns 600 Broadway, a Lorain office building where several lawyers who appeared before him when he was a judge had their offices.
Although Burge and his business partners sold the company and building in 2007 when he took the bench, the deal fell through in 2011 and the property reverted to the former owners. Burge has said when he realized that, he sold his stake in Whiteacre to his wife for $1 in June 2011.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which prosecuted Burge, argued during the trial that the judge failed to note his connections to the company in financial disclosures forms judges are required to file annually with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Burge, who is appealing his conviction, resigned as a judge shortly after the jury verdict. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has yet to name a replacement to take over for Burge, whose former docket is now being handled by Visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny.