ELYRIA — Although Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge is back to hearing cases involving county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office, the visiting judge who temporarily took over his docket remains involved in Burge’s cases.
Visiting Judge Dale Crawford is scheduled to preside over three sentencing hearings Friday, two involving pleas he took and one case in which he served as the trial judge.
Bret Crow, spokesman for the Ohio Supreme Court, said that Crawford remaining on the job for a period of time isn’t out of the ordinary.
He said the court orders assigning Crawford to handle Burge’s docket between May and last week, when Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor ruled Burge could fully resume his duties, allow the visiting judge to conclude court proceedings he participated in.
Crawford is paid $60.68 per hour and Lorain County pays $7 of that figure with the remainder coming from the state, according to Crow. For an eight-hour day, the maximum he’s allowed to work under state guidelines, Crawford earns $485.44, of which the county pays $56.
Burge said since he returned to hearing criminal cases he has conducted sentencing hearings for people that Crawford took the plea for, just as Crawford sentenced people who had pleaded guilty in front of Burge while running Burge’s docket.
Burge said he will do everything he can to accommodate Crawford on Friday.
“I’ve just been advised that Judge Crawford will be here and I intend to make him comfortable,” Burge said.
Will had sought to have Burge permanently barred from hearing any case involving his office, accusing the judge of intimidating and sexually harassing assistant prosecutors, making racist and other insensitive comments and seeking a government job for his wife.
But O’Connor ruled that while some of the allegations against Burge were troubling, Will had failed to present evidence showing that the judge was biased against Will and his staff.
Burge’s legal problems might not be over. A special grand jury has been meeting to hear evidence in a criminal investigation against the judge, including allegations dealing with his finances.
The Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel also has been conducting a confidential inquiry into ethics complaints against Burge.