August 28, 2014

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Ex-Judge Lilly pays fine, says it was late because she didn’t know about it

Former Lorain County Domestic Relations Judge Paulette Lilly on Friday paid fines and costs totaling $4,633.15 for violating campaign rules during her March bid to win a fresh judicial term.

Lilly’s payments had been due June 15, but she missed the deadline, prompting the Ohio Supreme Court to order her to explain why she shouldn’t be held in contempt of court and lose her law license for failing to make good on the April 19 order penalizing her.

By paying off her fines and costs — along with $17.50 in interest for being late — Lilly avoids a contempt citation. The court’s common practice is that payment is enough to end contempt proceedings.

Lilly said Friday she never received a copy of the April order and hadn’t been monitoring the Supreme Court’s docket, and she wasn’t aware of what she needed to do.

Court records indicated that copies of the order were sent to Lilly by certified mail but never claimed. Lilly said she may not have been able to collect the certified mail before it was sent back to the state’s high court.

“Failure of notification to me is why it wasn’t paid by June 15,” Lilly said.

A five-judge commission publicly reprimanded Lilly in April, agreeing with an earlier panel that some of Lilly’s campaign material had the cumulative effect of misleading voters by implying she was still a sitting judge.

Both bodies that reviewed the complaint against Lilly, filed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline, took issue with Lilly’s use of the word “return” in her campaign material and her use of photos of herself in a judicial robe.

The first panel had suggested a $3,000 fine, but the judges who reviewed it lowered the fine to $1,000 and ordered Lilly to pay the costs of the legal action against her and the costs of a similar complaint lodged against her during a failed 2008 effort to become a judge again. Lilly was fined $300 in the 2008 case.

Lilly has previously defended her actions in both campaigns. She has said she wasn’t trying to mislead voters and that her literature clearly told voters she wanted to become a judge again.

Lilly served two terms as a judge before she lost to current Domestic Relations Judge David Berta in 2006. Berta lost his own re-election bid to Lorain attorney Lisa Swenski in the March Democratic primary.

Lilly lost her own five-way Democratic primary to replace retiring Judge David Basinski to Amherst lawyer Frank Janik, who will face Republican Richard Ramsey in the fall.

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