ELYRIA — A divided Ohio Supreme Court decided on the suspension of a former Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge on Tuesday.
James Burge, who was convicted of six misdemeanors in 2014, was suspended for one year with six months stayed and about three months and three weeks credited. That makes his suspension about three months long.
The Court's majority opinion said the suspension was appropriate because Burge's misconduct occurred while he was a judge, which he has since resigned from and therefore, he is unlikely to repeat his offenses.
Burge was convicted on charges of falsification and tampering with records. He failed to disclose his interest in Whiteacre North. The company owned 600 Broadway at the time, a Lorain office building where Burge's legal offices were before he became a judge in 2007.
Burge and his business partners made a deal to sell the building to another attorney, but the deal fell apart in early 2011 and Burge sold his interest in the company to his wife in June of that year for $1.
In the time he owned the building, however, lawyers who rented the space appeared in Burge's court and he did not recuse himself or disclose the relationships.
The Supreme Court was divided in its opinion. Four judges were in the majority, one judge dissented and two judges stated they would not award Burge credit for the three months.
He originally was found guilty on three misdemeanors and three felonies, but those later were reduced to misdemeanors.
The Supreme Court imposed an interim suspension based on the original convictions, but reinstated Burge about three months later after the felonies were converted to misdemeanors.
Burge also paid a $3,000 fine, $1,000 for each of the three counts of falsification.
An ethics charge filed against Burge also led to additional charges. The Office of Disciplinary Council charged him in 2018 for violating the Ohio judges' rules of conduct. Those charges stemmed from Burge writing inflammatory letters to legislators, using racially-charged language on the bench and threatening to have a deputy shoot someone.
The Board of Professional Conduct recommended that Burge be suspended for one year with six months stayed and Burge requested he be given credit for the three months he was suspended.
Burge was not immediately available for comment.