Appeals court extends order on ex-judge

YOUNGSTOWN — A panel of the 7th District Court of Appeals has affirmed last June’s ruling by a visiting judge extending a civil stalking protection order Struthers Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller obtained against former Struthers Municipal Court Judge Dominic Leone III.

The order requires Leone to stay at least 500 feet away from Miller. At the time, the order allowed Leone to continue to have access to the court chambers, courtroom and the clerk of courts office, despite Miller’s office being in the same building. That was because Leone was still the Struthers Municipal Court judge.

In September 2023, Leone announced he would resign as judge effective Sept. 29, 2023. Leone lost his bid to be re-elected to the position in the May primary to James Melone, who is now Struthers Municipal Court judge.

Leone appealed the protection-order ruling, arguing that no pattern of conduct was proven during a hearing before visiting judge H.F. Inderlied in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

“However, this record shows there was a long pattern of conduct extending over more than a year involving dozens of people and many locations,” the appeals panel ruled Monday.

Judges Cheryl L. Waite; Carol A. Robb; and Craig R. Baldwin, who was sitting by assignment, issued the ruling.

The ruling stated that Leone also argued that his words and actions were protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. However, the civil stalking protection order “in this case did not contain any provisions regulating (Leone’s) speech, and the First Amendment cases cited by (Leone’s attorney) in his brief do not support any viable freedom of speech claim in this case,” the ruling stated.

The ruling affirmed Judge Inderlied’s issuance of the protection order, which is for two years, ending May 4, 2025.

Miller sought the protection order May 5, 2023, and an ex-parte protection order was issued the same day, the ruling notes. Ex-parte means the ruling was made without input from Leone at that phase of the case.

Inderlied’s ruling stated that Leone “engaged in a pattern of conduct that knowingly caused (Cercone Miller) to believe that (Leone) would cause physical harm to (Cercone Miller) and knowingly caused mental distress to” Cercone Miller.

The order pertains to Miller only, not her family, and allowed Leone to resume possession of firearms. Miller requested that the order cover her and her family. Magistrate Dennis Sarisky of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ordered Leone on May 4, 2023, not to possess firearms while the temporary protection order against him was in place.

Have an interesting story? Email Ed Runyan at erunyan@vindy.com


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