Ohio Judge Timothy Grendell Faces Allegations of Abuse of Power and Misconduct in Landmark Case

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Geauga County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell is facing allegations that he abused his authority, with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct set to hear his case. The state’s disciplinary counsel filed a complaint charging Grendell with four counts of judicial misconduct, accusing him of sending two teenage boys to jail during the COVID-19 pandemic for refusing to visit their father, whom they accused of abuse. Grendell has denied any wrongdoing, asserting that he acted within his powers as a judge and as a private citizen.

The hearing before the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct will span several days, starting on Monday and Tuesday, and potentially continuing on March 4 to 7. The panel, consisting of attorneys and judges from across Ohio, will listen to arguments from both the state’s disciplinary counsel and Grendell’s attorney, as well as testimony from witnesses. Following these proceedings, the panel will make a recommendation regarding any sanctions Grendell should face. Ultimately, the Ohio Supreme Court will review the case and make the final determination, a process that is expected to take several months.

The complaint against Grendell primarily revolves around his decision to jail two boys in May 2020. At the time, the boys were aged 13 and 15 and were arrested by Grendell on a Friday evening. He ordered a juvenile detention facility to detain them under strict conditions, prohibiting them from speaking to their mother until a court hearing the following Monday. Tragically, one of the boys has since passed away in a car accident.

This is not the first instance in which Grendell has faced controversy. In 2018, he clashed with the county’s auditor, Charles Walder, over the submission of detailed records when seeking county funds. Grendell believed that Walder was exceeding his authority. Tensions escalated to the point of a confrontation in June 2019, during which Grendell threatened to hold a Geauga County sheriff’s sergeant in contempt of court.

Additionally, Grendell has been accused of misconduct for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, he reportedly told a woman that she needed his approval before testing her son for COVID-19, referring to the pandemic as a “panic-a-demic.” When the boy was admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital due to respiratory issues and received a COVID-19 test, Grendell instructed his constable to remove the child from the hospital.

Moreover, Grendell is accused of violating a conduct rule that prohibits judges from appearing voluntarily to testify before state lawmakers. In 2020, he testified at the Ohio Statehouse in support of a bill co-sponsored by his wife, then-Rep. Diane Grendell, even closing his court early to travel to Columbus.

Grendell’s defense rests on his belief that his actions were justified. In a 160-page response to the complaint, he argued that jailing the boys was a response to their refusal to comply with his order and constituted “textbook unruly behavior.” He maintains that he had the authority to take all the steps in question and that his First Amendment rights allow him to testify on legislation directly impacting his life.

As the case unfolds, it will serve as a test for the Ohio judicial system as it grapples with allegations of judicial misconduct. Judge Grendell, who has served on the bench since 2011 and had a political career prior to that, faces potential disciplinary action that could impact his future as a jurist.