Legal Ethics

Judge Accused of Case-Related E-Mail Declines to Step Down, Blames Media

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An Ohio judge accused of making anonymous comments about her cases online under the moniker “Lawmiss” has denied a motion to recuse herself by a lawyer representing a defendant in a serial murder case.

Although Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold said today that she hasn’t yet decided whether to step down from overseeing the case of serial killer suspect Anthony Sowell, she refused today to recuse herself in three other cases in which attorney Rufus Sims also represents the defendant, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The judge said she wasn’t going to be intimidated, the newspaper recounts, and blamed the Plain Dealer for launching “one of the most vicious, mean-spirited attacks that anyone could ever make.”

Sims says he is considering an appeal of the recusal issue to the state supreme court.

As detailed in earlier posts, someone using the judge’s personal e-mail account reportedly criticized Sims and commented about Sowell and at least one other client of Sims. Saffold said it was not she who did so, and her adult daughter, a onetime law student, has taken responsibility for some of the anonymous Lawmiss posts. According to the newspaper, some of the approximately 80 comments by Lawmiss were made from Saffold’s court computer.

Additional coverage: “‘Lawmiss’ Comment on Accused Serial Killer Is Linked to Judge Overseeing His Case” “After Web Post About Serial Murder Case, Judge Should Step Down, Lawyer Says”

Miami Herald: “Leonard Pitts Jr.: The base side of anonymity”

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