by Amy Patterson
Ethics Office Files 61-page complaint against Juvenile/Probate Judge
Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell has until Nov. 30 to respond to a complaint filed Nov. 10 with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct claiming multiple violations of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules of Professional Conduct.
In the complaint, the Ohio Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary
Counsel outlined a pattern of alleged misconduct including Grendell’s
handling of a child custody case involving two juveniles, a public
dispute with employees of the Geauga County Auditor’s Office and public
comments disparaging other elected officials and news media.
Grendell also is accused of abusing the prestige of judicial office
in testimony before a government body and conduct that is prejudicial to
the administration of justice.
The ODC is charged with educating, investigating, and prosecuting
attorneys and judicial officers who are accused of ethical misconduct.
The office reviews grievances from the public, judges and other
attorneys to determine whether there is evidence of unethical conduct
and, if evidence exists, files formal disciplinary charges against the
attorney or judicial officer.
In response to the complaint, Grendell issued a press release Nov.
10 stating the complaint “is without legal merit, reflects a lack of
understanding of Ohio juvenile law and procedures, and contains many
factually incorrect allegations that are two years old and older.”
“Judge Timothy Grendell followed the law, protected children, spoke
truthfully and exercised his constitutionally protected free speech
rights, especially as they pertain to protecting public confidence in
the court. Judge Grendell violated no ethic rules and looks forward to
the opportunity to prove that ALL of his actions were proper and
ethical,” the release stated.
About half of the complaint relates to the custody case of two
teenage brothers Grendell ordered sent to the Portage-Geauga County
Juvenile Detention Center in Ravenna during the COVID pandemic after
they refused visitation with their estranged father, who had been
accused of violence against them.
Grendell took over the case from the Geauga County Court of Common
Pleas Domestic Relations Division in 2019, after a court magistrate
ordered the father to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment, and
complete anger management classes and a parenting program.
By that time, the children had made clear multiple times to a
court-appointed guardian ad litem that they did not wish to see their
father, who the ODC filing said allegedly slammed one of the brothers
against a wall in a February 2017 incident involving the Orwell Police
The complaint details the lengths to which Grendell went to force the
children into visitation with their father. The judge told their mother
if she was not willing to encourage the children to have a relationship
with their father, he would be awarded sole custody.
“What fosters a loving and bonded relationship is the children seeing
dad, and mom encouraging them to have a good time when they see dad,
and dad being smart and taking them out to play ball or to go on a
picnic, or fish, or whatever dad likes to do with the boys that they can
bond,” Grendell said during a May 2020 hearing. “… If the children come
over with an attitude and that’s not a good thing, and children don’t
develop attitudes on their own. Somebody has to help them develop the
attitude, and I will be watching, ma’am. I will be watching.”
The children were still unwilling to visit their father after being
escorted by Grendell’s constable John Ralph to an ordered visit, at
which point Grendell issued an order to remand them to a juvenile
detention center in Portage County.
Their mother offered to be detained in place of her children,
expressing concerns related to the COVID pandemic during a time when
many detention centers were releasing nonviolent offenders to slow the
spread of the virus, according to the ODC filing. Ralph told the mother
her children would be kept safe and isolated in the center.
While the rules for juvenile courts in the state of Ohio say a child
placed in detention has the right to speak to his or her parents and/or
legal counsel immediately upon being placed, and “at reasonable times
thereafter,” Grendell imposed strict rules on the pair.
They were prohibited from calling their mother, but allowed to call
their father. The siblings were kept in isolation and in separate rooms,
and prohibited from contacting each other. Further, they were subject
to physical checks every 15 minutes around the clock.
In September 2020, Grendell was informed ABC News 5 Cleveland would be running a story on the brothers.
He refused multiple opportunities to comment on the story, the ODC
filing said, and although he had handled it for over a year, Grendell
returned the case to the common pleas court before the television story
The second matter cited by the ODC involves a separate juvenile
custody case during which Grendell issued an order prohibiting COVID
testing of two children without his consent. The judge alleged COVID
concerns were used to deny visitation rights to the other parent.
“Pardon me for being a little skeptical when I’ve got 15 or more
women coming in here, some guys, saying that they shouldn’t go see their
other parent because of COVID-19,” Grendell said during a hearing
related to the case.
During that hearing the judge referred to COVID-19 as the “COVID-19
panic-demic,” and according to the ODC made several more inaccurate
statements about the spread and severity of the virus.
In September 2020, one of the children was admitted to a Akron
Children’s Hospital in need of emergency breathing treatments. Contrary
to Grendell’s order, the hospital tested the child for COVID. In
response, Grendell ordered Ralph to “physically seize” both children.
“Consequently,” the ODC complaint states, “Ralph went to ACH and physically removed (the child) from the hospital.”
The mother contacted the Geauga County Maple Leaf Nov. 10 and said
she has neither seen nor spoken to her children in over two years.
The ODC alleges Grendell’s order prohibiting COVID testing without his approval violated multiple judicial rules of conduct, including that a judge:
- shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence
in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and
shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety;
- shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially; and
- shall not permit family, social, political, financial, or other
interests or relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or
In his press release, Grendell said the ODC complaint contains
“speculation and false allegations” from two individuals who violated
numerous court orders.
“Those individuals made false abuse allegations against their
children’s fathers and actively worked to alienate the children from
their fathers,” Grendell claimed.
Grendell also argued the complaint improperly cited a sheriff’s
deputy as a legal authority — and the deputy was wrong as to Ohio
Abuse of Prestige
The fourth and final count alleged by the ODC is that Grendell used
his judicial authority to “abuse the prestige of judicial office to
advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or
allow others to do so.”
In May 2020, Grendell’s wife, state Rep. Diane Grendell, introduced House Bill 624, also known as the “Truth in COVID Statistics Bill.”
Diane alleged the state government, namely Gov. Mike DeWine and then
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, were misreporting COVID-19
In testimony before the Ohio House State and Local Government
Committee – on which Grendell sat during his time in the state house –
the judge questioned the integrity of statistics reported by ODH, and
accused the department as well as the media of creating an “atmosphere
At the time, Diane was actively campaigning for re-election.
The ODC complaint says Grendell violated a rule of judicial conduct
stating a judge shall not appear voluntarily at a public hearing before,
or otherwise consult with, an executive or a legislative body or
In Grendell’s Nov. 10 press release, Grendell said as a member of the
Law and Policy Committees of the Ohio Judicial Conference he is
frequently asked to review, comment and testify in front of the Ohio
Legislature on pending legislative matters.
“It is inconceivable that the Disciplinary Counsel would have any
authority to pick and choose, in hindsight, the appropriateness of any
such testimony,” Grendell said. “It is even more inconceivable that the
Disciplinary Counsel would have any authority over the free speech of
anyone testifying as an individual Ohio citizen, as Judge Grendell did
in his personal testimony regarding HB 624, which is protected by both
the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11
of the Ohio Constitution.”
The ODC complaint rehashes a long-running battle between Grendell’s
court and the office of Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder, including a June 2019 incident involving Grendell and his Court Administrator Kim Laurie and Fiscal Compliance Officer Seth Miller.
Miller and Laurie were asked to leave the auditor’s office after
allegedly becoming disruptive. The pair left with a stack of purchase
orders, vouchers and warrants Walder said were under his statutory
The ODC complaint describes an encounter the day of the incident between Grendell and Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus.
“Immediately following the incident at the Auditor’s Office,
(Grendell) appeared unannounced at the CPD and spoke to CPD Police Chief
Scott Niehus,” the complaint states. “During the conversation,
respondent threatened Niehus and the CPD with a federal lawsuit if any
of Niehus’ employees interfered with respondent’s employees.”
A court-appointed special prosecutor charged Miller and Laurie in Chardon Municipal Court with criminal mischief, a third-degree misdemeanor. They were eventually acquitted after a jury trial.
While the case was under investigation, the ODC complaint states
Grendell continued to make public statements in which he attacked
Walder, Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and the media, specifically
the Maple Leaf.
In July 2019, Grendell addressed a meeting of the Geauga County Tea Party in a presentation titled “Just the Facts.”
“(Grendell) suggested that Auditor Walder had committed a crime, but
would not face prosecution due to his relationship with Prosecutor
Flaiz,” the ODC said.
In extensive quotes from the presentation, Grendell said Walder was being “protected by his buddy the county prosecutor.”
“It’s a page out of the Obama/Mueller handbook,” said Grendell. “The
articles I was reading in the last Maple Leaf about, about special
prosecutors brought back all the images of Mueller running around and,
and misuse of authority. There’s nothing for a special prosecutor to do
except waste taxpayers’ money.”
Grendell further accused Walder of conduct constituting felony
intimidation. Additionally, the ODC said Grendell maligned the press,
stating, “I will be vilified by those wonderful papers like the ‘Maple
In an additional comment to the Maple Leaf hours after his Nov. 10
press release, Grendell said the ODC allegations are over two years old
and received media attention at the time.
“I was re-elected since then because the majority residents of Geauga
County know better and trust me,” he said. “This temporary affliction
will not change or impact my work providing efficient and fair justice
to the public in Geauga County. I look forward to demonstrating that the
allegations are baseless and without merit as the process proceeds.”
Full Article & Source:
Grendell Accused of Misconduct, Faces State Disciplinary Counsel Complaint