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MAHONING COMMON PLEAS COURT Judge candidate files complaint over Lisotto's ad



Published: Tue, May 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Franken lodged the complaint even though it was too late to pull the ad before the election.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A candidate for Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge has filed an 11th hour complaint over a campaign ad run by his opponent.

Atty. Timothy Franken says the TV ad being run by Judge Robert Lisotto accuses him of "misleading the public concerning [Judge Lisotto's] reprimand by the Ohio Supreme Court and setting aside my integrity in order to get a judge's robe."

Franken, an assistant county prosecutor, has asked the Mahoning County Bar Association's campaign ethics committee to look at the ad for possible violation of judicial ethics rules.

The attack on his integrity was particularly galling, Franken said.

He knows the complaint was filed too late to stop the ad from running before today's election, but he wanted to follow through anyway.

"If we are ever going to stop judicial candidates from doing whatever it takes, no matter how sleazy, to get the job, we must stop this type of conduct," Franken said in his letter to Atty. Lynn Maro, chairwoman of the campaign ethics committee.

Maro was not available to comment on what actions the bar association could take if it determines that the ad violates judicial campaign ethics rules.

Steelers tickets

Judge Lisotto received a public reprimand from the high court for accepting Pittsburgh Steelers football tickets from a lawyer who had cases pending before him. However, in its written decision, the justices said there was no evidence that Judge Lisotto used his position to help the lawyer in exchange for the tickets.

Judge Lisotto has said he counts that as vindication of any wrongdoing, but Franken said that's not true. He said a public reprimand is a form of punishment and that for Judge Lisotto to call it anything else is wrong.

"How can you say you've been vindicated when you've been punished?" he said. "I don't know how he can say I'm misleading anyone. He was reprimanded. That's what happened."

Judge Lisotto defended his ad, saying it was factual and was simply a response to Franken's ad.

"This is typical last-minute stuff," he said. "All I did was respond."

Earlier ad pulled

Franken lodged another complaint against Judge Lisotto last month over another ad he said was misleading. While a narrator said Judge Lisotto was endorsed by the Black Knights, an organization of black police officers, the ad showed a black male and a white female officer.

Franken said that visual implied that all police backed the judge when in fact it was just the Black Knights. The bar association agreed that the ad was "too broad" and ordered it pulled, Judge Lisotto said.

"They told me to pull it and I did so immediately," he said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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