COLUMBUS — Ohio’s Board of Professional Conduct has recommended a suspension for the Greene County Probate Court judge who was accused of courtroom misconduct.
In a decision handed down Friday, the board is sending Judge Thomas O’Diam’s case to the Supreme Court of Ohio, recommending a six-month suspension from the practice of law in Ohio. The board is also recommending that O’Diam pay costs of the proceedings and that the supreme court’s discipline order include a provision immediately suspending O’Diam from judicial office, without pay, for six months.
O’Diam was accused of speaking harshly 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 with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court.
O’Diam answered the allegations in front of a three-member panel, which ultimately 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.
Disciplinary Counsel Joseph M. Caligiuri and Assistant Counsels Lia J. Meehan and Audrey E. Varwig, along with O’Diam’s attorney, Joseph W. Borchelt, all had recommended a public reprimand.
The alleged violation occurred during a June 6, 2019 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 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.”
According to the supreme court’s office of public information, the court will issue a show-cause order sometime next week that gives the parties 20 days to file objections. If there are objections, the case will be set for oral argument. If neither party objects, the court will take the case under advisement.
The spokesperson did not predict when the court would schedule an oral argument or when a decision might be made. The court can accept or modify the board’s recommendation.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.