FOSTORIA, Ohio (WKBN) – A court spectator’s refusal to take a drug test led to the suspension of an Ohio judge.
The Ohio Supreme Court announced that Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp would be suspended for one year without pay as a result of placing the woman in contempt of court for her refusal.
In its unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that Repp violated four rules governing the professional conduct of Ohio judges and lawyers, including failure to perform all his judicial duties fairly and impartially.
Judge Repp was elected to the Tiffin Municipal Court in 2002. In 2013, Tiffin and Fostoria combined into one municipal court, and Repp has been the sole judge of that court since its inception. The court also operates a drug-court program called Participating in Victory of Transition (PIVOT).
In March 2020, a man was arrested for violating the terms of his probation for failing to appear at PIVOT. He was to appear in Judge Repp’s court via video from the Seneca County Jail, where he was held.
The man’s girlfriend went to Repp’s courtroom to observe the arraignment and hearing.
While other cases were proceeding, Repp addressed the woman on several occasions, suggesting she might be using drugs. Court video showed the woman sitting quietly in the back of the courtroom, bringing no attention to herself.
According to the Supreme Court, the woman did not have a case before Judge Repp, was not on probation and had never been charged with or convicted of a drug-related case. However, Repp had read the police report regarding the man’s case and noticed his girlfriend was in the car with him when he was arrested.
Judge Repp paused hearing other cases and announced to the court that he thought the woman was under the influence. He stated, “I want her drug tested.”
The bailiff directed the woman to the probation department, and she requested a lawyer when she was told by a probation officer that she had to get a drug test.
The officer told her she was not eligible for a court-appointed lawyer because she had not been charged with a crime.
When she refused to take the test, she was ordered back to Judge Repp’s courtroom.
When the woman returned to the courtroom, she told the judge she refused to take the test because she did not think she had done anything to be in trouble. Judge Repp stated, “Well, you come into my courtroom, I think you’re high, you’re in trouble.”
The woman responded, “OK, I’m not, though.”
When she again refused to be drug tested, Judge Repp found her in contempt of court and told her that she was sentenced to 10 days in jail and that they could “talk about this again” if she took a drug test.
The Court’s opinion stated that the woman “experienced several indignities” while in custody. She was required to take a pregnancy test, and then a female officer conducted a full-body scan that allegedly detected anomalies that the officer believed could have been contraband in the woman’s body. A male officer then viewed the nude scans of the woman. She was handcuffed and transferred to Tiffin Mercy Hospital for a second pregnancy test and body scan.
The hospital’s scan found no contraband, and she was returned to jail.
The Court ruled that Repp’s actions were an abuse of judicial power.
“We agree with the board’s assessment and concluded a one-year suspension with no stay will best protect the public and send a strong message to the judiciary that this type of judicial misconduct will not be tolerated,” the Court stated.
Judge Repp also was required to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceedings.