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01-13-03: County court magistrate to retire
The Daily Standard
    Magistrate J. Michael Bernstein is retiring from office at the end of January after handling family court issues in Mercer County courts for nearly 16 years.
    Bernstein, 60, plans to spend the remainder of the month on "leave" to complete cases he currently has under advisement, and then take early retirement on Jan. 31, according to Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham.
    Ingraham described Bernstein's retirement from court as "rather sudden," and said he had not yet received a written letter from Bernstein in regards to his retirement and/or reason for leaving. Ingraham said he plans to appoint a new magistrate in the near future.
    Bernstein did not return a telephone call after being contacted by The Daily Standard this morning.
    Bernstein was appointed to the position of magistrate in January 1987 by former Common Pleas Court Judge Dean James. At that time the title of the job was referred to as a "referee." His current salary as magistrate is paid jointly by common pleas and juvenile/probate courts and currently totals $72,000.
    During Bernstein's first year as magistrate, he typically handled family law cases in common pleas court. But in 1997, Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Mark Klosterman appointed Bernstein to serve as magistrate in that court also, adding child custody issues, parentage and child support and visitation cases to his list of duties.
    The appointment was the first time any Ohio court allowed a single magistrate to serve both courts.
    Ingraham, Bernstein's appointing authority, said Bernstein has always done everything he's asked him to do.
    "He heard all types of family matters, and in sense, unified both courts together," Ingraham said. "He's always been very pro-active and I've always felt if I was absent from court ... that this county was never lacking someone qualified to cover for me."
    Bernstein was admitted to the Ohio Bar Association in May of 1971 and was appointed as a referee in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court in 1981. He became associated with the law office of attorney Barrett E. Kemp in the Cridersville-area in 1986.
    In 1987, the same year Bernstein became magistrate in Mercer County, a complaint was filed against him and an investigation was completed by the Ohio Supreme Court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.
    The findings of fact in the complaint stated that while Bernstein served as referee in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court, he represented and was paid legal fees for attorney services in a divorce and a dissolution case.
    As a referee, Bernstein was prohibited from representing clients in common pleas court and violated a disciplinary rule of the Ohio State Bar Association.
    In February 1989, former Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Moyer found Bernstein guilty of misconduct and ordered him to be publicly reprimanded. Bernstein was ordered to pay a little more than $200 in court costs and warned that the reprimand could "justify an increase in the degree in discipline" for any future misconduct.


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