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MAHONING COUNTY Panel to mull judge's fate



Published: Wed, May 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The high court's disciplinary counsel said Judge Lisotto has been cooperative.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The fate of a judge accused of violating Ohio ethics rules by accepting football tickets from a lawyer will be debated next month.

Judge Robert G. Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court will have a hearing before a panel appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court on June 26 at the 8th District Court of Appeals building in Cleveland, said Jonathan Coughlan, the high court's disciplinary counsel.

After the hearing, the disciplinary panel will recommend a punishment, which must ultimately be approved by the Supreme Court justices.

Coughlan said Judge Lisotto has been cooperative with the court during its investigation of the case. Because of that, the court's board of commissioners on grievances and discipline has not yet been involved in Judge Lisotto's case.

"We've indicated to the panel that we've been working together," he said. "They haven't been involved other than giving us a date."

The board makes recommendations to the Supreme Court as to what punishment should be given to lawyers and judges on such matters, Coughlan said.

What judge said: Judge Lisotto said he's tried to cooperate and hopes the matter is soon resolved. He continues to work on the bench while the case is pending.

"My position has been the same from the beginning," he said. "I recognized that I owed for the tickets and I paid for them."

He declined to comment further because the case is still pending.

The court lodged a complaint against Judge Lisotto in February because he accepted Pittsburgh Steelers tickets from former attorney Stuart Banks in 1993, 1994, 1997 and 1998. Ethics rules prevent judges from accepting gifts from lawyers who have cases pending before them.

Banks, formerly of Canfield, turned in his law license after pleading guilty in October 1999 to racketeering conspiracy. He admitted bribing Martin W. Emrich, Fred H. Bailey and Andrew Polovischak Jr., who were judges, and then-county Prosecutor James A. Philomena.

Judge Lisotto has said he never gave Banks any judicial favors in return for the tickets, and that he did not realize at the time that it was wrong to accept them. When he did realize it was a problem, he said he paid Banks the estimated value of the tickets.




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