Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge fired off a volley of shots aimed at Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will on Thursday, signifying the battle between the two elected officials is not waning.
In response to a supplemental affidavit Will filed last week with the Ohio Supreme Court to further support his assertions that the judge should be removed from every case his office handles, Burge said in his own filing that he believes Will will continue with his attempts to judicially discredit him, and he is prepared for more attacks to come.
Burge, in a 19-page response to the supplemental affidavit, said he once was optimistic Will’s efforts might cease, but those working in the prosecutor’s office have off-handedly indicated otherwise.
“It appears, however, that any optimism I may have had in the above regard was ill-conceived,” Burge wrote before describing an incident that took place June 13.
According to Burge’s filing, on June 13 an investigator for the prosecutor’s office was serving the supplemental affidavit to a local attorney. When the office secretary asked the investigator if she was being served with a second affidavit, the response she received was, “That’s the second of many to come.”
Burge said he has never engaged Will or the attorneys in his office in controversy, unlike what now is happening with him.
“I have never attacked his character or that of any of his assistants,” Burge wrote. “I have never expressed a bias against any cause brought before me by the state of Ohio.”
In his original affidavit of disqualification against Burge filed last month, Will accused the judge of physically intimidating and sexually harassing assistant prosecutors, making racist comments and seeking to find a government job for his wife. Will’s supplemental affidavit further said how Burge saw his office as “his adversary that he must combat, contrary to his position as a judge.”
Will has written that the blatant bias and prejudice of Burge “seriously calls into question Judge Burge’s ability to act fairly and impartially in cases” involving his office.
In his latest response, Burge wrote extensively about his personal dealings with several local attorneys and how such interactions have been taken out of context in an effort to personally and judicially discredit him and his time on the bench.
For instance, Burge said attorney Richard Gronsky’s claim of intimidation is false. The two have had stern conversations related to Gronsky’s refusal to return money to defendants even when there is a court order demanding such, as well as issues related to the Second Amendment. Still, Burge said, he never saw the exchanges as coercive or intimidating.
“He enjoys baiting me and it works,” Burge wrote.
Even so, Burge said he thought the two of them shared an excellent relationship.
“He attends the CLE seminars that I offer,” he wrote. “We have spent a considerable amount of time discussing his hobbies and the connection my family has had to his community, the rural area surrounding the city of Wellington.”
In regard to Assistant Prosecutor Sherry Glass’ claims that she had been subjected to sexual harassment and intimidation throughout the more than seven years she was assigned to Burge’s courtroom, the judge wrote that he has found no evidence in his own court transcripts or in discussions with those in the courtroom while such acts supposedly took place to corroborate any of Glass’ claims.
Nor has he ever said anything off-putting in regard to Glass’ personal relationship with her husband as claimed, he wrote.
“I had always considered Attorney Glass and her husband to be friends of mine,” Burge wrote. “As a result, I am in disbelief that if Ms. Glass had heard my comments as she alleges them to have been made, either she or Prosecutor Will would not have brought the matter to my immediate attention, or that Ms. Glass would have continued her assignment to work in my courtroom for an additional 18 months.”
Burge’s response included affidavits from attorney Andrew Robinson Jr. and Tracy Williams-Reiman, a court reporter, both of whom back up Burge’s claim he did not make inappropriate comments to Glass while in court.
The relationship between Burge and his former bailiff, Assistant County Prosecutor Joe Tackett, also was discussed in the written response. The relationship between Burge and Tackett eventually deteriorated with Tackett leaving the judge’s employment, but Burge maintained he continued to hope for the best for his former employee.
He even penned a letter to Tackett’s parents at the conclusion of his employment in hopes of helping Tackett reconcile the relationship with his parents.
“It is a letter of apology to Joe’s family for my being critical of him,” Burge wrote. “The letter was meant to show my contrition for not being more understanding of Joe in light of his circumstances.”
Burge said Tackett, on his last day of employment, left the letter along with other personal belongings behind. Burge said he packed them up, including the letter, and made them available to Tackett for pick-up.
Burge has acknowledged being the subject of inquiries by the Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and is the target of a state criminal investigation, which appears to include an examination of his finances.
As for the battle between Burge and Will, until the dispute is resolved, Visiting Judge Dale Crawford is handling Burge’s criminal docket.