The victims of former Ohio state physician Richard Strauss have formally asked the judge presiding over the university lawsuits himself to recuse himself – and the cases be transferred to federal court in Cincinnati.
In a court filing Thursday, lawyers representing more than 100 men who were sexually assaulted by Strauss while at university highlighted the licensing agreement of Judge Michael Watson’s wife to sell state flags of Ohio and his post as assistant professor at Moritz College of Law as tantamount to a financial interest in the university, justifying his recusal. The motion also calls for the cases to be transferred to Cincinnati instead of another judge in the Columbus court due to other judges’ affiliations with the university.
“Of particular concern is that the last outstanding financial interest was not disclosed until after a media investigation and public disclosure,” the motion said. “And additional details reported in the press – regarding a separate contract or contracts to purchase services or products resulting in direct financial benefit to the judge’s spouse – were not disclosed by either the court or the OSU. nor otherwise confirmed. These public reports create and aggravate objectively reasonable doubts.
The motion follows a September 9 phone call with all parties in which Watson revealed his wife’s licensing deal with the university to sell Ohio State flags at her Clintonville, Ohio store The Flag Lady’s Flag Store. According to the official transcript of the call, Watson said he did not view his wife’s association with the university to amount to a “financial interest” in the university.
In 2019, Watson revealed his status as an assistant professor at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law. Although neither party requested his challenge at the time of its disclosure, the challenge petition claims that his teaching position, associated with his wife’s license agreement, represents a significant sum of money that Watson and his family receive. of university every year.
University spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email Tuesday that Watson’s wife’s store was one of 400 companies with a non-dress license, which must pay a 12% royalty. on all items sold with the Ohio State badge.
Johnson said the Flag Lady’s Flag Store has been licensed for “decades” and the university purchased less than $ 16,000 in merchandise from the company in fiscal year 2021. The university purchases items from approximately 34,000 suppliers.
The recusal motion states that Watson received $ 13,500 in 2021 as an assistant professor, totaling the university’s financial contributions to his family at $ 29,500, or about 13.5% of his salary of $ 218,600, according to US Courts Website.
“While many questions remain regarding the details, timing and nature of this belatedly disclosed business venture between OSU and Judge Watson’s wife, and the direct financial interest reported in the Columbus Expedition, raise reasonable doubts as to the ability of this Court to oversee this matter impartially and trigger an automatic disqualification, ”the petition said.
The motion also stated that a change of venue to Cincinnati would be reasonable, as there is no Ohio State campus in the city where there would be more impartial judges and it is within two hours from the main campus.
According to the motion, every judge in the Eastern Division of Columbus has a connection to the state of Ohio, which leaves them supporters of the school in any case where she is involved.
“To ensure an impartial review – and to preserve the appearance of the same – this case should be moved to Cincinnati, the division furthest from Columbus,” the motion said.
Jessica Orozco contributed reporting.
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