Middletown judge candidate takes responsibility for campaign mistakes

A candidate for Middletown Municipal Court judge took responsibility for a pair of campaign violations during an ethics hearing before a state panel.

James Sherron, one of three candidates for the judgeship, appeared Wednesday before a three-member panel of the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct concerning alleged improper campaign practices.

Incumbent Judge Melynda Cook Howard and Marilyn Hatfield, a Butler County GOP Central Committee member, filed the complaint against Sherron.

The two-count complaint alleged Sherron “knowingly or with reckless disregard posted material” that stated that he was licensed to practice in all federal courts and as well as information in an invitation for a fundraiser that implied he was the judge of Middletown Municipal Court.

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During the nearly 90-minute hearing in the 12th District Court of Appeals in Middletown, attorney Christopher Pagan, who represented Cook Howard and Hatfield, said substantial negotiations had taken place with Sherron, who had cooperated fully with the investigation as well as stipulated to both rule violations and that they were true.

However, both parties did not reach an agreement on the sanctions.

Sherron testified that he became aware of the violations when he was notified that a grievance had been filed against him. He said he had used the same resume for the past 30 years but had never used it to get a job. Sherron said after he was admitted to the bar of the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio, he thought that covered all federal courts. He said the resume, which is posted on his Facebook page, was corrected as soon as he was notified.

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He also said that the same resume with that information but was updated with information about his community service work was submitted to Gov. John Kasich when he was considered for the appointment for the judgeship after Judge Mark Wall’s death. That appointment went to Cook Howard in May.

As to the fundraiser invitation, Sherron said there were three versions, a digital version on a Facebook page as well as two paper invitations that omitted the word “candidate” and were sent to 100 to 150 of his supporters as well as about 300 people on the Butler County Republican Central Committee mailing list. Sherron said he did not closely review the items before they were mailed.

“Take out the word ‘candidate’ would be the last thing I’d ever do,” he said.

Of the 50 to 60 people who attended the Sept. 16 fundraiser, Sherron said he personally knew those in attendance.

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“It’s my campaign and it’s my responsibility,” he said during his testimony.

Pagan said he is seeking a fine of $5,000, the approximate amount raised at the fundraiser, to ensure there is a deterrence to others for these types of violations.

Sherron’s attorney, Dustin Hurley, said they were seeking a smaller fine and that Sherron has agreed to pay hearing costs.

Paul M. DeMarco, panel chairman, said a recommendation will be issued within five business days. Because of the expedited manner of this hearing, the case will not get a review by the full five-member Board of Professional Conduct.

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Sherron could face a range of sanctions — from a dismissal to a fine and panel costs to a public reprimand, according to Hurley.

Sherron, Cook Howard and Elizabeth Yauch are running to fill the unexpired term of Wall, who died in February.

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