Judicial etiquette


It is generally expected that there be at least some level of decorum and, yes, some honor on the part of a sitting judge’s campaign for election. Not so, apparently, in the case of the recent letter to the editor by the vengeful ex-wife of Judge C. Ashley Pike. More recently, there are now even threats of reprisal for those daring to call into question the judge’s public record. This is shocking.

Yet none of this changes the central issues in this year’s hotly contested race for common pleas judge in Columbiana County. Frankly, it only serves to heighten the importance of the contest.

It does not change, for instance, the fact that Assistant County Prosecutor Megan Bickerton garnered the endorsement of the County Republican Central and Executive Committee with 82 percent of the vote. This is an unprecedented rebuke of a sitting officeholder by a body of his peers, sworn to tell the truth.

This vote occurred in the wake of what could only be called a “temper tantrum” by Ashley Pike at the endorsement meeting during which he suggested that his highly educated and accomplished opponent would be “nothing but a puppet and pawn” should she be elected judge. How demeaning to her. How insulting to the committee. Other county judges witnessed this.

Ashley Pike went on to distribute a campaign “handout” suggesting that Megan Bickerton was not a full-time prosecutor, questioning if she had even prosecuted any cases in 2017. This was deliberately false and misleading. With her 12 years prosecuting more than 16,000 cases, Megan is actually far more experienced than Ashley Pike was when he first sought a seat on the county court bench. That is a fact.

Of course, what candidate Pike does not want anybody to focus upon is the core and defining difference between his candidacy and that of Megan Bickerton. Indeed only Attorney Bickerton has a detailed plan for establishing a drug court to address the single most important criminal justice and public safety issue in the county. Pike rejects this approach.

Finally, it is true that Ohio has an “open Primary” and Democrats are welcome to cross over and take a Republican ballot. Yet it is quite another matter for a sitting judge to suggest that Democrats do this as a means of thwarting the legal “associative rights” of the Republican Party as Ashley Pike has urged on his social media account. It’s sort of like his seeking the endorsement of the UAW while he drives to work in his luxury, foreign made Mercedes Benz. And he accuses others of hypocrisy?

The Ohio Judicial Code of Conduct is pretty clear about how sitting judges are to conduct their campaigns. They are not to use the prestige of their office for campaign purposes, they are not to knowingly misrepresent their opponent’s record of qualifications, and they are certainly not permitted to use their position, their office (even their courthouse phone!) to threaten or coerce anybody about anything outside of the official conduct of a court proceeding.

David W. Johnson

County GOP chairman