According to experts, the marriage of the newly-elected Cuyahoga County
Common Pleas Judge Sherrie Miday to Ryan Miday, communications director
for County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, is unlikely to create any
major judicial conflicts of interest or ethics issues. Although Judge
Miday may face pressure to recuse herself from any high-profile cases
her husband is involved with, no professional rules of conduct nor Ohio
Supreme Court decisions require an elected judge whose spouse is involved
with a party in a criminal case to step aside and ask a visiting judge
to hear the case.
“This sounds like a position where [the relationship] is tangential
enough that we wouldn’t expect it to affect the judge’s ability
to be fair and impartial,” said Cassandra Robertson, a professor
of legal ethics at Case Western Reserve University. Joseph Gross, an attorney
and past chair of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Ethics
and Professionalism Committee, agreed with Robertson’s statement.
“I do not think anyone should question the judge's impartiality
in a criminal matter just because her husband works for the prosecutor's
office, especially since he is not a lawyer there,” Gross added.
Familial Ties in the Judicial System Are Nothing New
The Cuyahoga County court system has had a long history of similar marital
and familial relationships between members. For example, Judge Nancy R.
McDonnell is married to John Kosko, a supervisor in the Cuyahoga County’s
prosecutor’s office. Newly-elected Judge Michael Shaughnessy is
the brother of defense attorney Thomas Shaughnessy, while Judge Joan Synenberg
is married to defense attorney Roger Synenberg. What keeps these relationships
in check are judicial canons and decisions by the Ohio Supreme Court’s
Board of Professional Conduct.
Some of the many rules that prevent against ethical conflicts include:
- Attorneys may not work on any case which enters a relative’s courtroom
- Judges must step aside if an attorney relative works on a case that enters
- Judges must be disqualified in cases where they cannot be impartial
In the Miday’s case, while a recusal request may be raised if Ryan
Miday played a key role in a large case before it was assigned to Judge
Miday’s courtroom, there is no clear precedent which requires a
judge to recuse themselves or even inform attorneys of the relationship.
Attorney Ian N. Friedman of Friedman & Nemeck, LLC Attorneys at Law
believes that there is no conflict of interest to be worried about, having
personally known the Midays to be upstanding and professional individuals.
“Even if Ryan were standing outside the courtroom projecting the
opinions of the prosecutor's office, I would have no problem walking
right past him and going into Judge Miday's courtroom and would expect
nothing less than a thoughtful, fair and impartial ruling for my client,"
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