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LISOTTO CASE Panel advises censure



Published: Fri, August 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Judge Lisotto intends to seek re-election next year.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A disciplinary panel has recommended that Judge Robert G. Lisotto be publicly reprimanded for accepting football tickets from a lawyer who had cases in his court.

The Ohio Supreme Court's board of commissioners on grievances and discipline report said there is no evidence of any favors, preferences or improper actions as a result of Judge Lisotto's acceptance of the tickets.

"All things considered, I think it turned out well," said Judge Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. "It's an appropriate recommendation."

An outpouring of support from the judge's colleagues and friends, coupled with the fact that there are no prior black marks on his record, stopped the panel from recommending a tougher sanction.

At a hearing in June, Judge Lisotto and his attorneys submitted more than 50 letters of support from judges, attorneys and community members that spoke of his record on the bench and in the community, the panel's report said.

Paid for tickets: Also in his favor was the fact that he'd paid for the tickets in 1999, long before the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel began its inquiry into the matter.

The matter now goes before the Supreme Court justices, who will either adopt the recommendation or impose a different penalty.

A public reprimand does not require the judge to resign, and he said he has no intention of doing so. His term expires next year and he said he will seek re-election.

Judge Lisotto said he's relieved to have the matter nearly disposed of, though he expects it to be brought up again during his re-election campaign.

Ethics rules: Ohio ethics rules state that a judge cannot accept gifts from a person who has come or is likely to come before the judge, and that judges shall avoid the appearance of impropriety in all activities.

Jonathan Coughlan, disciplinary counsel, filed a complaint against Judge Lisotto in February because he accepted the Steelers tickets in 1993, 1994, 1997 and 1998 from former attorney Stuart Banks, who had numerous cases before Judge Lisotto both in common pleas court and the county's area courts.

Judge Lisotto also neglected to list the tickets as gifts on his financial disclosure forms in 1993, 1997 and 1998, and was late filing his 1994 disclosure form.

bjackson@vindy.com




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