Judge Amy Salerno of Franklin County, Ohio has been reprimand for a serious breach of judicial ethics. Salerno lashed out at jurors after they acquitted a defendant and said that it was a “slam dunk” case. Salerno was ranked as the worst judge in the Columbus Bar Association survey in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013. She appears intent on continuing her ignoble distinction. We previously discussed the case.
The case itself did not seem a likely choice for such a departure from basic rules of judicial decorum. It was a simply misdemeanor assault case in 2013. Salerno called in the jurors after the not guilty verdict and told them that they blew it and disclosed that the defendant was facing charges in another criminal case.
That is an obvious violation of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.2 requiring a judge to respect and comply with the law and to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary). It was also found to violate Judicial Conduct Rule 2.8(C) prohibiting a judge from commending or criticizing jurors for their verdict other than in a court order or opinion in a proceeding. These violations were found to be aggravated by what the Bar found was how Salerno’s conduct adversely affected several jurors, who were quite upset by the judge’s criticism which “subjected the entire Ohio judicial system to widespread criticism and ridicule after her remarks received nationwide media coverage. See BCGD Proc.Reg. 10(B)(1)(h).” A juror described her demeanor as “nasty” and said that she went home and cried after the criticism.
Salerno issued a statement that noted that she accepted and even asked for the reprimand: “Everyone has said something that they later regretted. Upon reflection, I publicly acknowledged my mistake and have apologized for what was said. It was intemperate. I punished myself by requesting a public reprimand from the Supreme Court. I agreed to and accepted a public reprimand from the Supreme Court of Ohio. I have learned from this experience and it will never happen again.”
Salerno is a former former Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1995 through 2002. She received her BA from Youngstown State University in 1979 and a JD from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University in 1982. She left the House due to term limits and then lost the election for Franklin County clerk of courts. Ohio Governor Taft appointed her to the Franklin County Municipal Court. Despite her low standing as a judge, she was recently reelected with 60 percent of the votes. Her reelection seems to reaffirm concerns over electing judges. As we have previously discussed, low-ranking and even unbalanced judges have been reelected in campaigns that seem disconnected from the merits of judicial retention (here and here and here).
Here is the opinion: Ohio Reprimand
Source: Dispatch as first seen on ABA Journal