COLUMBUS — A Greene County judge received a six-month stayed suspension for inappropriate courtroom behavior during a status hearing.
In a 5-2 decision handed down Thursday by the Ohio Supreme Court, Probate Court Judge Thomas M. O’Diam will be able to continue practicing law on the conditions that he commit no further misconduct and complete six hours of continuing judicial education focused on judicial demeanor, civility, and professionalism.
O’Diam will also pay court costs in the amount of $1,162.05 and the Office of Attorney Services was ordered to not issue a certificate of good standing to O’Diam during any period of suspension, including any stayed period of suspension.
O’Diam was accused of speaking harshly in 2019 to someone in his courtroom who had previously told Greene County commissioners that the judge should “should recuse himself from cases in which ‘family members’ represent parties.”
A complaint saying O’Diam violated rule 2.8(B) of the code, which states that “A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control” was filed March 29, 2021 with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court.
A three-member panel recommended a six-month suspension from the practice of law with the entire suspension stayed on the condition that O’Diam commit no further misconduct and completes six hours of continuing judicial education focused on judicial demeanor, civility, and professionalism.
The board amended the recommendation and removed the six-month stay before referring the case to the Supreme Court. Board Disciplinary Counsel Joseph M. Caligiuri and Assistant Counsels Lia J. Meehan and Audrey E. Varwig, along with O’Diam’s attorney all had recommended a public reprimand.
Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart concurred with the opinion, while Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, and Justice Jennifer Brunner dissented in part and “would impose the sanction recommended by the Board of Professional Conduct” according to the opinion.
In the per curiam opinion, the court wrote that “we agree with the panel and board’s assessment that O’Diam acted with a selfish or dishonest motive, failed to accept full responsibility for his misconduct, and did not make full and free disclosure to the board.”
The alleged violation occurred during a status conference regarding the estate of Carolee Buccalo, which was being handled by Brittany O’Diam, Judge O’Diam’s daughter. Buccalo’s son, Grant David Buccalo, was called to the stand and questioned at length about the comments he made to the commissioners in 2019 regarding family members representing parties in O’Diam’s court.
In his response to the complaint, O’Diam admitted to most of the allegations and during the hearing in front of the panel, O’Diam said he didn’t handle the situation well and used words like “inappropriate” and “mistake.”
In amending the panel’s recommendation to remove the six-month stay, the board wrote that “The record is clear that Respondent routinely monitored the county commissioners’ meetings and immediately exercised his judicial authority to address what he perceived as a personal affront to himself and his daughter, an affront that occurred outside the probate courtroom.”
The board also opined that O’Diam’s “conduct during the status conference was nothing more than a premeditated abuse of judicial authority directed at a private citizen who had exercised his constitutional right to address elected officials in a public forum.”
We have reached out to O’Diam’s attorney for comments and will update as needed.