Mahoning probate judge faces Supreme Court reprimand


By JUSTIN DENNIS

jdennis@vindy.com

COLUMBUS

Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Robert N. Rusu faces a possible public reprimand for failing to recuse himself as judge from cases he had previously taken as an attorney.

The Ohio Supreme Court Board of Professional Conduct on Monday filed its recommendation to the state high court, which followed a June disciplinary hearing on Judge Rusu’s conduct leading into and following his July 2014 appointment to the court. The Supreme Court will now decide whether to issue a public reprimand.

A complaint filed in January accused Judge Rusu of hearing more than 185 cases in which he had previously served as an attorney, as well as failing to notify several “active” clients about seeking new counsel after taking the bench.

Judge Rusu admitted to the misconduct, stating he misinterpreted judicial rules. The board ruled he violated a judicial conduct rule regarding judge impartiality.

The board, however, dismissed a second count regarding Judge Rusu’s sale of his 49 percent share of interest in the Lane & Rusu Co. law firm to another firm associate and his failure to inform clients of the sale. The board determined that rule applies only when the law practice is sold “in its entirety.”

The board noted Rusu “did not act from a selfish or dishonest motive” as well as is forthcoming and “cooperative attitude” during the hearing. No clients were harmed by Rusu’s misconduct, the board noted.

Gov. John Kasich appointed Judge Rusu to the county probate bench in July 2014, following the resignation of former Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky, who was convicted of tampering with campaign contribution records. Judge Rusu was elected to a full term on the probate bench in November 2014.

The board recommended the judge also pay more than $900 in fees for the disciplinary proceedings.

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