WARREN - Appellate Judge Mary Jane Trapp of the 11th District Court of Appeals is locked in a re-election campaign against former appellate judge Colleen O'Toole, who last week was sanctioned by a three-member disciplinary panel that found she misrepresented herself on a campaign button and her website.
O'Toole, who defeated Trapp for an appellate seat in 2004 before losing a re-election bid in the 2011 Republican primary, said she plans to challenge the findings with constitutional-based arguments.
O'Toole did not make it clear she was no longer on the bench in her advertisements, according to the decision from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio.
According to a complaint filed by James Davis, a retired attorney from Geauga County, O'Toole's resume distributed to the Ashtabula County Republican Party contained a photograph of her in what appears to be a judicial robe, creating "the false impression of being a current judge."
The board found no violation against O'Toole in the use of the outdated photo that O'Toole said was posted on her website without her knowledge.
The board did find violations against O'Toole for wording in her website that could have made voters think she was still a sitting judge in the appellate court and for her wearing a gold and black name plate badge which read, "Colleen Mary O'Toole Judge 11th District Court of Appeals."
Mary Jane Trapp
Address: Russell Township (Geauga County)
Profession: judge, 11th District Court of Appeals
Previous Office: seeking second term
Notable quote: ''Under my watch, we reduced our operating budget, we accomplished a staff reorganization ... and we achieved a reduction in the time it takes to complete an appeal.''
Address: Concord Township (Lake County)
Previous Office: former appellate judge, 11th District
Notable quote: ''My first priority would be to reduce the number of judges and staff to appropriately mirror the latest census reports.''
In addition, the panel recommends O'Toole be fined $1,000 and the cost of the proceedings, plus pay Davis $2,500 and his attorney fees.
The next step is for the full disciplinary board to vote on whether a violation has occurred. If they decide not to dismiss the complaint, the full board will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court.
''I'll abide by the panel's recommendation in the meantime, even though most of this is a violation of my right to free speech,'' O'Toole said.
In the meantime, O'Toole is claiming the court and its staff should be reduced from the five judges now sitting in the district based on the most current U.S. Census data.
Trapp says she has studied the caseload in the district more recently and finds that the workload that increased with more foreclosure work has leveled off.
''We will continue to re-assess staffing vis-a-vis our caseload. We are now preparing our court for electronic filing and updating our court rules, which will reduce costs for the parties,'' Trapp said.
''Having been instrumental in bringing pro bono foreclosure mediation to each of five counties we serve, I will continue to work with the bar association legal aid committees to develop free legal advice clinics and other services to meet the growing unmet legal needs in our area,'' she said.
O'Toole also is advocating for more simple forms and help from clerks for people who ask as their own attorneys. She wants to use technology to provide transcripts and make them available on the Internet.
The court hears appeals from all lower courts in Trumbull, Lake, Portage, Geauga and Ashtabula counties. Appellate judges earn $132,000 per year.