MINOT, N.D. — A candidate campaigning to sit on the judicial bench in North Dakota has a bizarre story in his background.
Three candidates were on the primary ballot to replace South Central District Court Judge Thomas Schneider, who has opted to retire after serving in that office since the 1980s.
Bonnie Storbakken of Bismarck was one of those candidates. Gabrielle Goter of Mandan was another. The third was Scott Ronald Miller, and his middle name is what's at issue.
Back in 2004, Miller was a candidate for a judgeship in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, Ohio, under the name Scott Russo Miller.
According to court records, Miller began using "Russo" as his middle name in early 2004. "Miller had his Ohio driver's license and his Social Security, voter registration, credit, and business cards changed to reflect his claimed name change," a judgment from the Ohio Supreme Court states.
Why would Miller do this? He argued in court that he wanted to honor his Italian heritage, though "Russo" doesn't seem to be a name used by his family.
The court, in its ruling, came up with a more plausible explanation.
It turns out "Russo" is a very recognizable name in Cuyahoga County politics.
"'Russo' is the name of the county auditor and five county judges: Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo, Judge Anthony J. Russo of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, Judge Joseph F. Russo of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, and Judges Joseph D. Russo, Michael J. Russo, and Nancy Margaret Russo of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, General Division," the Supreme Court wrote.
A complaint was filed with the Cuyahoga County Election Board over Miller's name change, and it was decided that Miller should appear only as "Scott Miller" on the ballot.
Miller appealed to the state Supreme Court but lost. One of the justices, concurring with the majority opinion, wrote that Miller's "attempted name change was an affront to the bar and to the electorate," also describing it at "outrageous behavior."
"I no longer use that name. I'm running under the name I was born with today. It happened a long time ago," Miller, who has served as a deputy state's attorney in Burleigh County since 2019, told me when I contacted him about this matter.
Asked why he attempted the name change in Ohio, Miller told me, "I don't have any other comment."
Miller, who received nearly 32% of the vote on primary day, is advancing to the general election ballot in November along with Storbacken who received almost 45%.
Goter received just over 23% of the vote and was eliminated from the race.
Miller was listed on the primary ballot as Scott R. Miller.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.