A Highland County magistrate has been relieved of her duties hearing child support cases, but after serving a suspension will continue hearing divorces, dissolutions and other domestic cases following a traffic stop on July 9 in Clermont County where she was originally charged with impaired driving. The charge was later reduced to reckless operation.
Cynthia A. Williams, Wilmington, has served as a magistrate in Highland County Common Pleas Court since July 1997, according to information on the court’s website, which says she presides in domestic relations cases “and other matters assigned her by the Court.” She also serves as the court administrator and mediator, according to the website.
In addition to handling divorce, dissolution and other domestic cases, Williams has also been hearing child support cases for about the past year. Highland County Probate and Juvenile Judge Kevin Greer said Friday he has dismissed Williams from that role and will resume handling those cases himself.
Williams’ duties hearing divorce and other domestic relations cases are under the umbrella of Judge Rocky Coss. Coss said this week he is disciplining Williams but not terminating her employment.
“I give people who have done far worse things second chances,” said Coss. He said Williams has had an “exemplary” record until this incident. He said he is aware of actual judges in Ohio who have had DUI convictions but continued to serve.
Coss provided The Times-Gazette with a copy of a formal notice of disciplinary action against Williams. The notice states that Williams has been suspended without pay for two weeks beginning Aug. 1 and will be on probationary status “indefinitely but for a minimum of eighteen months.” The notice states she will receive no pay increases while on probation, and will self-report to the Disciplinary Counsel regarding the traffic conviction.
The notice also criticizes Williams because “one of the passengers in the vehicle has been a litigant in a divorce and post decree hearing” in a case she handled. The notice states that the initial arrest happened at 3:30 a.m. on July 9. Coss also was critical of the fact that Williams did not immediately disclose the traffic incident to him or Greer.
For his part, Greer said that after considering the nature of the offense and the “evasive nature” of how the facts were brought to his attention, ending Williams’ services as magistrate on child support cases was the best course of action “to protect the public trust and integrity.”
In regard to Coss’ decision to continue using Williams as a magistrate after she serves a suspension, Greer said, “That’s his call.”
According to Clermont County court records, Williams was stopped by the Ohio State Highway Patrol on July 9 and charged with driving under the influence after she failed a Breathalyzer test. The legal limit in Ohio is .08. In his disciplinary note, Coss wrote that Williams registered a blood alcohol content of .086 “which is a per se violation.”
The case was dismissed on July 22 after Williams pled no contest to an amended charge of reckless operation.
In Ohio, a magistrate is an attorney licensed in Ohio “who is appointed by the court to conduct some or all hearings in a case. A magistrate also may conduct trials and decide cases. However, a magistrate’s decision becomes the court’s judgment only after it has been adopted by the judge,” according to the Ohio Bar Association.
According to biographical information on the court website, Williams “graduated from Wilmington High School in 1981 and from the University of Cincinnati in 1985 with a BA in Administrative Management. She graduated from Salmon P. Chase College of Law with a Juris Doctor degree in 1991. She practiced law in a small firm in Wilmington, Ohio where she practiced all aspects of law but primarily domestic relations.”
Williams did not respond to a message relayed to her inviting her to comment.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.