Plough agrees to suspension of law license

Anna Duszkiewicz

First step of legal disciplinary action against judge begins


Credit: DKS Editors

Read a document that was filed Oct. 16 and signed by both parties. The Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline and Portage County Municipal Judge John Plough agreed to six counts of violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The process to suspend Judge John Plough’s law license begins today during a disciplinary hearing in Columbus. He will stand before a panel of three members of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

After an investigation into numerous complaints about his conduct on the bench, Plough, of the Portage County Municipal Court, agreed to be barred from practicing law for one year, with six months of that time suspended, according to a 30-page stipulation document filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on Oct. 16.

Ohio Supreme Court spokesman Chris Davey said Plough was originally scheduled to attend five days of testimony this week, but signing the stipulation agreement cut the process down to one hearing, scheduled today.

Plough said he signed the stipulation document to make things easier on his family.

“My family has been through a lot as a result of these charges being filed against me,” Plough said. “I want to spare them the aggravation of going through a full week of hearings when the outcome, I don’t want to say it’s predetermined, but there’s a good chance I would have received the same thing I’m agreeing to if I hadn’t signed it.”

Plough said signing the document allows him to finish his term as judge. The board that will consider his case does not meet again until December, and his term is up in January.

Despite the fact Plough has agreed to have his license suspended, the panel is still required to conduct a hearing and to go through the legal steps to suspend it, Davey said.

“The purpose of the hearing is to have the stipulations, which is a legal term for agreements, that have been agreed upon to be presented to the three hearing officers on the record,” Davey said.

If the members of the panel accept the case, they will forward it to the full board of discipline for consideration.

If the board accepts it, its members will forward it to the Ohio Supreme Court judges, who have the ultimate authority to suspend Plough’s law license.

According to the stipulation document, Plough faces six counts of violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and the Code of Judicial Conduct. Nine counts were originally filed, but three of them were withdrawn.

Plough said by signing the document, he agreed the facts in the complaints are accurate and could be ethical violations, but he said he has always tried to do the right thing and does not feel he ever did anything unethical.

He said the rules he is accused of violating are vague and subject to a lot of interpretation.

“If you look at all the complaints against me, there is nothing saying I did anything dishonest, nothing immoral, nothing illegal,” Plough said. “Now, I don’t want the panel to get the idea I’m saying I didn’t do something wrong.

“I’m not denying that, under their standards, I may have acted improperly. But it wasn’t done intentionally. It wasn’t done to spite someone or hurt anyone. It was done because I thought I was doing justice. When you have thousands of cases, it’s hard to be perfect on every case.”

Plough said he’s not that upset about the suspension because he was not planning to run for judge again.

“What upsets me most is I’ve tried to do so much for the community and for the people who come in front of me, and basically I’m being punished for it,” he said. “I was trying to do what was right for everybody, and that’s all I can say.”

Contact public affairs reporter Anna Duszkiewicz at [email protected].