Mother Has Son Tested for Covid-19, Gets Threatened with Contempt of Court

The latest from Geauga County Judge Timothy Grendell


Longtime VC readers may recall Ohio Judge Timothy Grendell, a juvenile and probate court judge on the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, who threatened to hold people in contempt for saying negative things about him in private. That was but one of example of the sort of outrageous behavior Judge Grendell has been accused of in his time on the bench, as Ken White of Popehat detailed here.

Well, here is a new one. As detailed in this extensive report from ProPublica, Judge Grendell threatened to hold a mother in contempt of court for getting a Covid-19 test for her son. From the report:

A few weeks after he testified to lawmakers [about Covid-19 policies], he referred to the pandemic as a "panic-ademic" in the midst of a custody proceeding in his courtroom in Geauga County, outside Cleveland. And he has claimed that 15 mothers in his court have used the virus as an excuse in custody cases to "mess with" their exes' parenting time.

Then, on Oct. 2, Grendell made an order that legal experts call unheard of, and medical experts say could cause harm. The judge banned two parents, who were wrangling over custody of their young boys, from having the "children undergo COVID-19 testing" without his approval, according to the court record.

A doctor subsequently ordered a coronavirus test for one of the boys before admitting him to a children's hospital for severe breathing problems. When Grendell found out, he threatened to find the mother in contempt of court, a move that could lead to her being thrown in jail.

The story also includes Judge Grendell's response to the allegations:

Grendell declined ProPublica's request to be interviewed for this story. In his most recent judgment entry, on Dec. 9, he said the mother at the center of the COVID-19 testing case had failed to return the children on several occasions, "using COVID-19 or her concerns about the children and COVID-19 as the reason for not complying with the Court's orders."

Through his court administrator, Grendell said that he was prohibited from commenting on pending cases, or about broader accusations related to his conduct. He said his decisions are "always in the best interest of the children" and "based on sound law and the actual facts in the case." Grendell reiterated that he has seen situations where one parent repeatedly misuses COVID-19 testing and quarantining to prevent the other parent from spending court-ordered time with children.

"The court is fully cognizant of the seriousness of COVID and understands the need for all members of the public to be careful and to engage in the necessary and recommended safeguards," Grendell said.

Judge Grendell was unopposed in the November 2020 election, and has said he may retire before the end of his term, enabling him to collect his salary and a pension.

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  1. My father used to have an expression he used for people he despised. “First class schmuck.” Sounds appropriate for this judge.

  2. Grendell’s an idiot. But he might be in the right on this one. There are plenty of examples of parents abusing medical claims during custody disputes. It’s not hard to imagine situations where those claims should be viewed with skepticism, even when the claims are about covid.

    I’ll admit that I’m not sure why that skepticism would extend to a ban on testing, though…

    1. Testing sometimes comes with delays from getting test results. A creative parent can misuse this delay.

    2. Here a doctor advised it. No way a contempt order would be upheld.

      His original order should have made that an exception — no Covid test without a Dr. prescribing it.

      1. Eh, maybe. There are plenty of quacks-for-hire out there. Assuming for the sake of argument that skepticism of mere testing is justified, I can imagine scenarios where the mother might not be allowed unlimited discretion to go hunting until she found such a quack. Maybe ‘no test except on an emergency basis’?

        Or maybe even that’s unnecessary since, while the doctor might be a quack, the covid tests are all (I think) sent out to large labs for processing… It is a weird order.

        1. I’m thinking the child protective laws here — if a licensed MD ordered it as “medically necessary” then that would come under “the best interest of the child.”

          And if it was in the course of an inpatient admission….

      2. “His original order should have made that an exception — no Covid test without a Dr. prescribing it.”

        Why on earth would you want to prevent a test? How about just requiring her to adhere to the custody plan?

    3. I agree with you that the ProPublica story offers some basis to suggest that the mother may be overly concerned about the child’s medical issues, which in turn permits (but certainly doesn’t require) the inference that she’s doing it to interfere with the father’s custody arrangements.

      But even if that’s true, Judge Grendell is in no conceivable way “in the right” in terms of his handling of the matter.

  3. This guy is a Republican from White, backwater Ohio. Let’s hope the children involved in the cases that come before him escape those can’t-keep-up stretches of desolate America.

    1. You’re a fucking bigot Kirkland. Let your hate go, it’s eating you alive.

      1. Hoping those children get a chance at a better life is hateful?

        You’re a bigoted dope, bevis. Smacking around guys like you in the culture war has been a privilege, a pleasure, and an important public service.

        1. You don’t know anything about me, bigoted scum. But you don’t need to know anything to make judgment because you’re a hateful piece of shit.

          1. I dislike old-timey bigotry and right-wing bigots.

            This apparently rankles plenty of Republicans.

            1. You “dislike” the delusions in your mind that you project all your inadequacies onto. Get help.

    2. “First class schmuck.”
      And a jackass.

      1. ““First class schmuck.”
        And a jackass.”

        But, enough about Artie.

    3. It appears to me that Geauga County is a moderately affluent suburb of Cleveland. And while I certainly agree that most kids can do a lot better than living in or near Cleveland, desolate backwater seems a little harsh.

  4. Where’s Beowulf when we really need him?

  5. Jonathan,

    You might be also interested to know another Judge Grendell-related story. His “hand-picked” court administrator filed an ethics complaint against his primary opponent. Then press statements and ads went out saying his opponent was the subject of an ethics complaint. The disciplinary board unanimously dismissed the complaint and found that it was made for the sole purpose of gaining an advantage for Grendell. The administrator was sanctioned.


  6. Child has “severe” breathing issues in the middle of a pandemic to the extent that his doc orders a test to see if he’s got the virus.

    Judge thru a court order a judge tries to stop it.

    Your honor, that ain’t in the best interest of the child.

    1. You know, there is the “life threatening emergency” exception to parental permission for medical treatment of a minor.

      I wonder if parental permission for a COVID test would even be required if the child had “severe” breathing issues — not breathing is a life-threatening emergency…

  7. One more observation. Buried in the saga of Judge Grendell is the fact that Republicans wishing to push him out of the state house for his awful personality thought the best way to do that was to get the Governor to appoint him to a judicial post where he presides over family disputes and adjudicates juvenile cases. Apparently they thought: “Wow he’s really awful, guess he should be given broad and often un-reviewable discretion over children’s lives.”

    I mean there are probably a million better ways to get a problematic person out of the legislature than appointing him to a judicial post; where he can continue to win elections on the basis of name and party ID and incumbency.

    1. I thought that was what Probate Court was for….

      1. Tim is judge of both Probate and Juvenile. In small Ohio counties, one judge does both.

  8. There’s gotta be some sort of criminal charge here.

    1. The Ohio Supreme Court should remove him from that position and reassign him to Doggie-Doodie Court,* where he can adjudicate tickets of dog owners who fail to pick up their dogs’ leavings.

      (*Were I representing someone there, I would bring an Equal Protection challenge, seeing as there are no Cat-Doodie laws. But that’s just me.)

      1. Has he violated any ethics rule for judges?

        If not, then the supreme court can’t just remove him because people do not like him.

        1. Absolutely. Canon 2: A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently.

          (That’s just the heading; there are a number of specific rules under there applicable to the situation.)

    2. “some sort of criminal charge here”

      Judicial immunity says otherwise.

      1. Ummm — what do the Ohio Child Protective Laws say?

        Some states have written them so broadly that endangering a child may not come under immunity.

      2. Judicial immunity is civil, not criminal. (To be clear, I don’t think there’s any criminal liability here on his part. But not because of immunity; because there’s no applicable law.)

        1. Reckless endangerment? Ordering somebody not to get medical care seems pretty reckless. And dangerous.

  9. Tim has always been a character, even when he was just a lawyer.

    1. I assume you’re just trying to be provocative, but come on.

      1. Not sure what you mean?

  10. That’s some drama, but it’s not about much of anything. Child custody fights can get messy.

    Why should onlookers care whether the kid got a Covid test? Why should we care? Is a Covid test becoming a new secular sacrament?

    Stop being obsessed about what everyone else does related to Covid. Obsession is unhealthy and obsession with others’ choices is destructive.

    1. I’m sure most people don’t care whether this kid got a COVID test or not—I certainly don’t. I do, however, care that a judge threatened to put her in jail for getting him one. You know, the thing that this post is about?

      1. Judges sometimes do dumb things. In this case, a judge threatened to do a dumb thing and later thought better of it. Seems like something to care a lot about if it was actually done rather than mentioned and then not done.

        1. And if this was the only blot on an otherwise impeccable judicial escutcheon, then I agree it would be advisable to chill.

          Unfortunately, this sort of abuse of power seems to be illustrative of how Judge Grendell routinely abuses his office, and it would be nice for someone to do something about.

          I get that being performatively contrarian has a certain appeal, but I think you can pick your battles a little more sensibly.

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