December 21, 2014

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High court gives Lilly a chance to explain

The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday gave former Lorain County Domestic Relations Judge Paulette Lilly 20 days to explain why she shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to pay fines and costs totaling $4,633.15 for violating campaign rules during the March primary.

If Lilly is held in contempt, the state’s highest court could suspend her license to practice law, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote in the order.

The five-judge commission, which publicly reprimanded Lilly, had given her until June 15 to pay off the fines and costs, but she missed the deadline. She still had not paid as of Wednesday, according to Supreme Court spokesman Bret Crow.

Lilly did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday, and according to court records, recent certified mail sent to her regarding the campaign complaint against her has been returned unclaimed.

The April 19 order leveling the fines and cost against Lilly warned her that if she didn’t pay she could be held in contempt, be assessed a 10 percent yearly interest rate and that the unpaid balance would be forwarded to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for collection.

The commission determined that some of the campaign material used by Lilly during the Democratic primary had the cumulative effect of misleading voters into believing she was still a sitting judge by using the word “return” in front of her name and by the use of photos of the former judge in robes.

Lilly served two six-year terms before she was defeated in her re-election effort in 2006 by now-Domestic Relations Judge David Berta, who lost his bid for a second term to Lorain attorney Lisa Swenski during the Democratic primary.

Lilly lost the five-way race to replace retiring Domestic Relations Judge David Berta to Amherst lawyer Frank Janik, who will face Republican Richard Ramsey in November.

It was Lilly’s second unsuccessful effort to return to the bench. She lost an earlier bid in 2008, during which she also was found to have misled voters with campaign material that made it appear she was still on the bench.

Lilly was fined $300 in the earlier case. In the most recent campaign violation case, she was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay the costs of both the 2008 and 2012 cases against her.

Lilly previously has insisted she did nothing wrong and that her material made it clear she was a former judge looking to rejoin the judiciary.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.