November 26, 2014


Judge removes self from all of attorney’s cases





ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge on Wednesday removed himself from every case assigned to his courtroom that Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo was handling.

Just last year Burge successfully fended off an effort by Cillo to convince Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to have Burge tossed from all of Cillo’s cases.

Although there hasn’t been a similar push recently, Burge said he thought it was best for him to stop overseeing cases in which Cillo was involved and focus on his duties as administrative judge and on other cases.

“I have concluded that due to the amount of time spent by assistant county prosecutors who are assigned to the task of preventing me from hearing Attorney Cillo’s cases, the Lorain County taxpayer is being ill-served,” Burge wrote in a statement. “Hopefully my recusal will result not only in better government, but as well, in a better use of the tax dollar.”

County Prosecutor Dennis Will scoffed at Burge’s assertion that his office was wasting time and money on efforts to keep Burge from hearing cases involving Cillo.

“That’s ridiculous,” Will said after being read Burge’s statement. “That’s nonsense.”

Will said his office has only taken steps to remove Burge from cases when they believed there was a clear conflict for the judge and would continue to do so in the future if he thought it was necessary.

“I do my job based on my right to have a proper hearing in court,” he said.

During last year’s push to force Burge off Cillo’s cases, prosecutors argued that the judge had a bias against Cillo that dated back to Burge’s days as a defense lawyer. Burge has long denied that he harbors any bias against Cillo.

O’Connor refused to remove Burge from the cases of Albert Fine, who faces the death penalty if convicted of killing and dismembering his girlfriend, and Shannon Weber, who is accused of twice trying to kill her son.

“Judges are presumed to be capable of putting aside old disagreements with former opposing counsel and attorneys appearing before them, and nothing in Cillo’s affidavits would lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Burge has developed such a strong personal bias against Cillo — based on their history — that the judge would be unable to preside fairly over cases involving him,” O’Connor wrote in May.

But the state’s top judge did remove Burge from one case Cillo is involved in, the effort by death row inmate Stanley Jalowiec to win a new trial. Prosecutors had accused Burge of prejudging the case in favor of Jalowiec, an allegation Burge vehemently denied.

O’Connor wrote that Burge’s comments to the media about those allegations ultimately convinced her to remove Burge from the Jalowiec case. She wrote that those “statements could cause the reasonable and objective observer to conclude that the judge has become Cillo’s adversary.”

Burge said Wednesday that his decision removes him from the cases of both Fine and Weber as well as that of Luis Lopez, who is accused of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

The judge said he doesn’t intend to take any future cases that Cillo is dealing with, something that could potentially prevent him from dealing with future death penalty cases. As the chief of the criminal division in the prosecutor’s office, Cillo handles capital and other high-profile cases.

But Burge said if Cillo takes a case that has already been assigned to his courtroom, he will stay on that hypothetical case. He said that would prevent prosecutors from simply assigning Cillo to cases to force him off.

The feud over Burge dealing with cases involving Cillo isn’t the first time the judge has clashed with Will’s office over whether he should remain on certain cases. Burge has sometimes removed himself from cases, as he did after he sent a letter to the Ohio Parole Board urging them to free convicted killer Clarence Weaver, whom the judge believes is innocent.

Burge also has suggested that Will and his staff are responsible for the Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel launching an investigation into Burge’s handling of the controversial Head Start child molestation case and other issues.

That inquiry is considered confidential, but Cillo has denied that he or anyone else from Will’s office was behind it.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or

  • Denise Caruloff

    my fav judge…what he did for nancy and joseph says it all for me…God speed.


      That is because you are ignorant and base your opinion of his work on your bias towards child molesters.

  • RealLHS

    Burge cares more about criminals than victims.

    • stop ur whining

      You have evidence to support that right? Conviction records, etc..

      Spoken to him at length both inside and outside a court room and Burge is all for locking up criminals…what he is not for, is making the prosecutors case for him

      • RealLHS

        You’re a terrible judge and you were an awful attorney as well.

        • stop ur whining

          and again you have some kind of evidence to defend your opinion right?

          • RealLHS

            I read the paper. Facts are facts. This forum is not a scientific poll, but obviously the perception of the majority is in agreement with my observation. Too bad people with judicial aspirations seem to have a code not to run against an incumbent. You would lose in a landslide, Jim.

  • Linda Groves

    Burge should be disbared

    • stop ur whining

      based on what?


        His actions, like the death penalty debacle, the child molester debacle, the pickle jar killer probation debacle, and so on with all we don’t know. Almost every single time you read about some outrages decision it is his name attached to it. Have heard he had/has a Che picture up… proof, but that alone is reason enough.

  • told you so

    Burge has sold his soul years ago

  • Mark B

    Nither one of them is worth the wages we pay them, criminals are back on the street causing Kaos , why do we bother sending them to court

  • stillsleepyeyes

    He only won cases when he became the judge……………remove yourself from the bench………………retire and take gardwennie with you………………….

    • stop ur whining

      hahaha. how wrong you are. he was a successful and respected defense attorney for YEARS…how do you think he got to the bench?

      • It has to stop

        Successful and respected defense lawyer. Didn’t know there was such a thing.
        As far as him getting to the bench you can thank the uneducated voters of Lorain County.

        • stillsleepyeyes


  • Don Grantzki

    If these guys were limited to one four year term, they wouldn’t be feeding at the trough long enough to make enemies.

  • It has to stop

    He got it right with Nancy but every blind squirrel finds a nut now and then. Now I wish he would find it in himself to remove himself from his position altogether.

  • Ex_Subscriber

    What is Mr. Burge doing, recusing himself to part-time status? The people of Lorain County thought they were electing a full-time judge who could be impartial. Looks like they were wrong on both counts. Mr. Burge is essentially admitting that he is either prejudiced against capital punishment in murder cases. or prejudiced against Mr. Cillo as a prosecuting attorney. Either way, recusing himself from these cases isn’t going to cut it. Is there a recall procedure for elected judiciary in Ohio? If so, it ought to be pursued NOW by the Lorain County electorate, rather than hoping for Mr. Burge to step down or waiting for the next election cycle. Recall or impeach James Burge.

    • stop ur whining

      BUrge recused himself to avoid future appeals and wasting anymore time and money. He very well could of not recused himself. In other words, he took the high road.


        Unless you are him, how would you know that? Maybe he is tired of losing appeals…

        • stillsleepyeyes

          ding ding ding we have a winner……………

  • It has to stop

    Hopefully whenever Burge comes back up for re-election the voters will educate themselves on the number of criminals he has given a slap on the wrist. The same judge who has a picture of James Filiaggi in his office. The murderer who ruthlessly chased his wife down and killed her.

  • told you so

    stop ur whining r u his bailiff

  • INavon

    Burge should recuse himself from his position. He never stopped thinking like a defense attorney. I wonder what he would think about his decisions against someone who caused harm against him or his family.

  • formerlorainresident

    I view this as a positive. Have Cillo assigned to all the scumbags we really want to get off the streets, that way Burge won’t be able to continue to let them off.

  • formerlorainresident

    See photo below. Yes, it was taken in Judge Burge’s office. The photo over is right should is that of one Che Guevara.

    I think this says it all!!

    Che was an Marxist revolutionary, who idolized Karl Marx as his ideological inspiration. A totalitarian who spent his life preaching hatred for the United States and everything it stands for.

    He was also the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship, and played a major role in bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. When it ended, he called out the Soviets for backing down, stating they should have fired their nuclear weapons into the U.S., annihilating as many Americans as possible, including innocent women and children. He was a total Pig!!

    So this is who a Lorain County judge idolizes enough to hang large picture of in his office? There are government building where you cannot hang a cross, but you can hang a symbol of hatred to our country? Maybe the taxpayers who are paying for his office should demand this be removed!

    So it is okay to worship a person who wants to cause death to innocent Americans, including children and babies, but when a convicted murderer appears in his courtroom, he can’t find the courage to sentence him to death because it may be too painful or inhumane.

    If voters really understood who Che was, all any opponent running against Burge would only have to do is post this photo of him, in his taxpayer funded office, on their campaign signs. This is a disgrace and an embarrassment to Lorain County.

    • formerlorainresident

      Photo not posting.

    • It has to stop

      That and his picture of James Filiaggi. How do you think the family of Lisa Huff feels. Burge is a scumbag and is no better then the criminals he represented.