Judge Saffold Files $50M Suit Against Cleveland Newspaper Over Online Comments

According to Spitz, Sydney made at least five comments under the name "lawmiss," due in part to her keen interest in her mother's cases and the judicial system in general.

"Sydney was in law school, she is currently reapplying to law school," Spitz said, adding that because of Sydney's desire to become a lawyer, she spent a lot of time sitting, watching, and talking to people in her mother's courthouse as well as watching her mother's trials, eventually leading her to comment about them on the Plain Dealer Web site.

"It's part of her interest," Spitz said.

Goldberg said she wasn't sure whether Sydney, who lives three hours away in Columbus, was responsible for the comments. Her main priority was after discovering the alleged connection to Judge Saffold to make it public to make sure she was an impartial judge.

"Judge Saffold has a very rich and colorful history in this community," Goldberg said, adding this wasn't the first time Saffold's name has surfaced in regard to the newspaper.

Saffold once ordered the arrest of a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter who refused to give up a source and has been criticized on the newspaper's pages for some of her judicial decisions, Goldberg said. In 1996 Ewinger, the reporter whose family member's mental state was allegedly commented on by "lawmiss," reported on comments made by Judge Saffold to a woman who pleaded guilty to credit card fraud.

"Men are easy," Ewinger reported the judge allegedly told the woman. "You can go sit at the bus stop, put on a short skirt, cross your legs and pick up 25. Ten of them will give you their money. It's the truth. If you don't pick up the first 10, then all you got to do is open your legs a little bit and cross them at the bottom and then they'll stop."

In response to Ewinger's reports, Spitz said, "We think that when a newspaper drudges up alleged comments made ten years ago, it reflects on their agenda as to not reporting current events."

"Lawmiss" allegedly began posting in 2007, on a wide range of topics including the inner workings of the Cuyahoga County government, the Cleveland Browns' quarterback competition, and conditions at a local golf course, Goldberg said.

If the comments allegedly regarding cases were in fact written by Judge Saffold, it would be a major ethics violation, according to Professor Christopher M. Fairman of the Ohio State Moritz College of Law.

"This is a complete violation of the code of judicial ethics if this is in fact true. She can't be doing things on her own outside the courtroom, just as we wouldn't want jurors to be forming their own opinions outside the courtroom," Fairman said.

If it was in fact the daughter, Fairman said she is a private citizen and able to do what she wants.

"However, if Judge Saffold knew her daughter was doing this, then I believe that Saffold had an obligation to act and put a stop to it," Fairman said. "I have never seen a case like this before. It is a doozy. If the mother is having her daughter fall on the sword, that is pretty unseemly."

Michael Fertik, author of the book "Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier" and creator of Reputation Defender, a company specializing in helping people combat libel online, cautioned against a rush to judgment in this case.

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