Justice Cupp Takes ANOTHER CONTRIBUTION From A Litigant Before His Court
For Immediate Release
August 15, 2012
For the second time in two weeks, Judge William O'Neill has demanded that Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp "stop taking campaign contributions from litigants who have cases before his Court". In a harshly worded letter, the retired Judge cautioned the Justice "once is a mistake, twice is a pattern" that violates the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct.
"This is not a matter to be debated between lawyers", Judge O'Neill said. "In accepting money from people who have pending cases before the Court, a Supreme Court Justice is disregarding a caution sign. It is simply wrong, and everyone knows it. I'm just the only one saying it publicly."
Judge O'Neill, who is retired from the 11th District Court of Appeals, referred to the case of State ex. rel Oakwood v. Industrial Commission (Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-3209) in which Kokosing Construction is the real party in interest. The case was submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court on May 8, 2012. Three weeks later, on May 31, Daniel Walker, Senior Vice President of Kokosing Construction made a $1,000 contribution to the re-election committee of Justice Robert Cupp. On July 18 Justice Cupp cast his vote rendering judgment on behalf of his contributor.
"There is no way to avoid the appearance of impropriety here", the Judge explained, "and that makes it prohibited conduct by a sitting Judge or Justice".
Canon 1 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that "A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety, and the appearance of impropriety."
In an unprecedented letter to a sitting Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, Judge O'Neill cautioned the Justice that the only acceptable alternative at this point was to "refuse or recuse" on cases where contributors are also litigants who have active cases on his docket.
"Taking a contribution once from a litigant while reviewing their case is clearly a mistake. But continuing to accept contributions from litigants on more than one occasion is a trend," O'Neill said. "I urged Justice Cupp to stop accepting these contributions back in June. I made it very clear that what he was doing was wrong. To now see him knowingly continue to accept these contributions is unacceptable. His actions undermine Canon 1 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct and the authority of the Ohio Supreme Court."
The letter from Judge O'Neill came only nine days after he filed a formal grievance with Disciplinary Counsel of Ohio Jonathan Coughlan regarding what appeared to be an earlier violation of Canon 1. In that matter Justice Cupp received a $6,300 contribution from First Energy Corp. while reviewing a First Energy appeal and then ruling in their favor (Wimmer v. Pub. Util. Comm., 131 Ohio St.3rd 283).
For more information contact Christopher Clevenger, Director of Communications.
Director of Communications
O'Neill for Ohio Supreme Court