MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Common Pleas Court Judge Otho Eyster has recused himself from any court proceedings involving local attorney Scott Pullins while Pullins’ disciplinary hearing remains active.
Pullins filed a blanket order of disqualification against Eyster, stating Eyster’s grievances against Pullins, his involvement as chairman of the Board of Grievances and Discipline, as well as “extensive publicity concerning Judge Eyster’s grievances,” did not leave opportunity for Pullins, or his clients, to receive a fair trial with Eyster on the bench.
Eyster submitted an answer to Pullins’ disqualification request on April 21, stating this was the fifth affidavit filed by Pullins or his wife, Kathryn, since 2006. In his response, Eyster refers to an answer he filed to a similar request in 2008, the fourth attempt to have Eyster removed from Pullins’ cases.
“I close by expressing a growing concern of the serial pattern that appears to be emerging as it relates to the filing of affidavits of disqualification by Kathryn and Scott Pullins. The number of affidavits of disqualification filed by the Pullinses in the last two years is close to exceeding the number of such affidavits filed against me in my entire 25 years on the bench,” Eyster’s answer stated.
According to the answer, each prior request for disqualification was denied.
Regarding this request for disqualification, Eyster states “[Pullins] points to no words or deeds of the undersigned that occurred since the last time Mr. Pullins and his wife filed an affidavit of disqualification.”
Eyster reiterated several times throughout his original answer that he feels he can be “fair and impartial as to the matters that come before the court where Mr. Pullins is either council or a party. Mr. Pullins and his clients will be treated with courtesy, fairness and impartiality, not only as to the pending matters referenced in his affidavit, but also as to future matters. The undersigned does not harbor any bias or ill-will against Mr. Pullins.”
On May 6, Eyster amended his original answer and voluntarily recused himself from matters involving Pullins while the disciplinary hearing is pending.
“Reflecting on my position as chairman of the Board of Grievances and Discipline, I found it was best to insulate myself from the case,” Eyster said Monday regarding his decision to recuse himself. “This was needed to erase any appearance of conflict or impropriety and to maintain the integrity of the Board of Grievances and Discipline.”
Eyster’s recusal was backed up by a judgment entry filed May 8 by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer.
According to Moyer’s entry, “Nothing in the affidavit or the judge’s response causes me to question the judge’s ability to preside fairly and impartially over cases involving attorney Pullins.
“Although Judge Eyster filed one of the disciplinary grievances against Pullins, he has had no involvement as Chair or otherwise in the disciplinary proceedings now pending against Pullins. Nevertheless, I agree with the judge’s decision to recuse himself in order to allay any concerns about his impartiality in cases involving Pullins.”
Pullins’ affidavit of disqualification was dismissed as moot by Moyer, who will appoint a visiting judge to preside over Pullins’ cases in Knox County. Moyer further noted the recusal is valid only until a decision is rendered by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.