HOR­TON

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - Jwil­[email protected]­patch.com

Hor­ton, 48, de­serves an in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion, the board said, cit­ing Hor­ton’s “preda­tory and harm­ful con­duct” and the “fla­grant abuse of his po­si­tion” with sec­re­tary-turned-bailiff Elise Wyant and the for­mer in­tern, who is now an at­tor­ney.

Nei­ther Hor­ton nor his at­tor­neys could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day night.

Both the panel and the board found that Hor­ton was guilty of the three counts of mis­con­duct con­tained in a com­plaint filed against Hor­ton by the Ohio Supreme Court dis­ci­plinary coun­sel: in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual

con­duct, re­quir­ing court em­ploy­ees to han­dle cam­paign du­ties on county time, and his con­vic­tion for fil­ing in­ac­cu­rate cam­paign-fi­nance re­ports. All of the al­le­ga­tions re­lated to his time in 20132014 as a Franklin County Com­mon Pleas Court judge, a po­si­tion that he held from Novem­ber 2006 un­til his elec­tion in Novem­ber 2014 to the 10th Dis­trict Court of Ap­peals, which serves Franklin County.

Hor­ton’s guilty pleas to the three mis­de­meanor cam­paign-fi­nance law vi­o­la­tions in Fe­bru­ary 2017 led to a 10-day jail sen­tence, but he re­mained on the bench.

The board said it be­lieves Hor­ton de­serves a harsher pun­ish­ment in this case than the hear­ing panel rec­om­mended, cit­ing two prior dis­ci­plinary cases in­volv­ing

lawyers who en­gaged in ha­rass­ment or in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual ac­tiv­ity in which each re­ceived six-month sus­pen­sions.

“Hor­ton was a judge at the time the mis­con­duct oc­curred and con­tin­ues to serve in a po­si­tion of trust and au­thor­ity that he can ex­ploit for his per­sonal grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Fur­ther, his con­duct was di­rected at mul­ti­ple women who were sub­ject to his au­thor­ity, and he en­gaged in other acts of mis­con­duct as­so­ci­ated with ju­di­cial cam­paign ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing vi­o­la­tions that gave rise to crim­i­nal con­vic­tions,” the board stated.

“For these rea­sons, and those cited by the panel, the Board con­cludes that a longer sus­pen­sion, cou­pled with strin­gent con­di­tions on re­in­state­ment to the prac­tice

of law, is nec­es­sary to pro­tect the pub­lic and pro­mote pub­lic con­fi­dence in the in­tegrity of the ju­di­ciary.”

The hear­ing panel and the board both rec­om­mended the Ohio Supreme Court set sev­eral con­di­tions for Hor­ton’s re­turn to prac­tic­ing law, in­clud­ing: con­tin­ued par­tic­i­pa­tion in Al­co­holics Anony­mous; sub­mis­sion to a new eval­u­a­tion and com­pli­ance with con­di­tions set by the Ohio Lawyers As­sis­tance Pro­gram, which deals with lawyers with al­co­hol, drug, mental health and other problems; have no fur­ther con­tact with any of his for­mer fe­male em­ploy­ees or in­terns who tes­ti­fied, and that he pay the cost of the dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings.

The Ohio Supreme Court will make the fi­nal de­ci­sion in the mat­ter, which could take up to a year. The state’s high­est court will give Hor­ton the op­por­tu­nity to first ap­peal the board’s rec­om­men­da­tion. If he does, oral ar­gu­ments will be sched­uled.

In a pre­pared state­ment in Septem­ber to the dis­ci­plinary panel hear­ing his case, Hor­ton tear­fully ad­mit­ted that he is a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic who “made a lot of mis­takes.”

“I want you to know that I rec­og­nize that. I un­der­stand my (law) li­cense is in jeop­ardy. That’s the re­al­ity of it. Do what you need to do....” he said.

“I’m not try­ing to save my job. My ca­reer from that stand­point is long gone,” Hor­ton said. “I want to be a good per­son. What­ever that takes, I’m will­ing to do.”

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