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Muskingum judge shows poor judgment

Muskingum County Court Judge Mark Fleegle might want to take another look at his own judgment, after Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor was forced to remove him from two cases because of his careless attitude toward coronavirus prevention measures.

One would be hard pressed to find a Buckeye State resident who does not understand we are under a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, a statewide mask-wearing mandate and restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people. But according to a complaint filed by a defense attorney, in Fleegle’s little corner of the judicial branch there was no mask mandate in his courtrooms, social distancing was limited, there was no discernible air circulation and no barriers between participants. The attorney reported during one recent trial “a significant number of jurors (three or four) never wore masks.”

Aware of the complaint, Fleegle announces a few preventive steps, but still failed to put written procedures in place.

His justification? Fleegle says only one positive case has been traced to the court under his prior procedures and the risk of exposure is part of being an essential worker.

Such an attitude is appalling in a public official with so great a responsibility as Fleegle’s.

Failure to understand all it takes is one positive case to kill someone; and that, in fact, proper preventive measures can lower the risk even for essential workers, should amount to punishable incompetence. O’Connor did the right thing by removing him from the two cases in question, and to use her ruling on Fleegle to require written protocols in courtrooms. She may have saved some lives.

But there is still the matter of a delay in justice for those involved in the cases in question.

At the very least, Fleegle is in need of a little continuing education so future plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, jurors and staff will not feel as though their health is at risk in his courtrooms.

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