Plough’s suspension reflects need for ethics in law curriculum

Nick Glunt

Kent State University is required to include ethics courses in its paralegal core curriculum in order to avoid issues similar to those that came to light during the recent law license suspension of John Plough, former Portage County judge.

“Ethics violations have serious consequences,” said Hedi Nasheri, director of paralegal studies at Kent State.

She explained that because of this, the American Bar Association requires all of its accredited Ohio universities to include ethics courses in the curriculum in order for students to graduate.

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Plough’s law license for a year as a result of 14 ethics and conduct violations during his four-year tenure on the Portage County Municipal Court bench, according to a document supplied by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Though Nasheri was unfamiliar with the Plough case, she said those with suspended law licenses generally lose respect or credibility in addition to being disallowed to practice law.

“It’s kind of humiliating (to lose a law license),” she said. “Because of the media, colleagues become aware of it … If a license is suspended, it becomes hard to trust that person.”

Plough, 62, was elected to the municipal bench in 2005. Though he did not seek re-election as a judge in 2010, a Portage County Board of Elections representative said he is not even given the option to run as long as his license is suspended.

At Kent State, paralegal students are subject to the same ABA ethics course requirements as any other law program in Ohio, Nasheri said. These include laws and hypothetical situations so students have the knowledge to use in real life situations.

The Portage County Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court were unwilling to comment on Plough’s license suspension.

Plough’s charges included not keeping audio records for trials, ignoring a defense attorney’s request for additional preparation time once more evidence had been found, as well as interrupting and criticizing a defense attorney’s professional qualifications, among other misconduct.

“Of course I’m not happy with being suspended, because I didn’t do anything, in my opinion, that warranted it,” said Plough in a July 22 Record Courier article. “If you look at the ethical rules, they’re so vague.”

Contact administration reporter Nick Glunt at [email protected].