Judge Robert P. Milich may be right when he says that it's a "nightmare" dealing with the flood of cases before the Youngstown Municipal Court, but we find it hard to believe that the system is so clogged up there isn't any way to red-flag an accused who has a criminal history.
Indeed, when we hear Milich, who has been on the bench for three years, admit that the court needs a "better system of accountability," we have to wonder what initiatives he and one of his colleagues, Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr., who has served since December 1997, have taken to make the municipal court more efficient.
By contrast, the third judge, Elizabeth Kobly, who has been on board for only 10 months, has moved boldly to deal with the plague of loud-music offenders with multiple offenses and uninsured drivers.
We recall that when Douglas and Milich received their gubernatorial appointments to the court they made much of the fact that the Youngstown Municipal Court was systemically defective and that major changes were needed to ensure the proper administration of justice.
Probation stacking: Yet, low bonds for individuals charged with violent crimes remain a cause for concern, as they were through the 1990s; stacking of probation is still a problem, and irregular court hours continue to be a topic of conversation among lawyers.
Earlier this year, in endorsing Judge Douglas for the Democratic nomination in the May primary, we said that we were willing to give the three judges of the municipal court some more time to get the city's judicial system in shape.
But when we read that for 91/2 months, a 24-year-old man's gun, drug and loud-music charges languished in Judge Milich's court, we begin to believe that the system's flaws are a reflection of poor management and employee incompetence.
On the front page of Monday's Vindicator, the case of Zachary T. Howell was detailed. The story included this mindboggling tidbit: During the 91/2 months that the gun, drug and loud-music charges lay dormant in Milich's court, Howell got arrested on another gun charge.
A graphic that accompanied the story provided details of this man's criminal history. His latest arrest occurred on June 25 and involved a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, a felony, and speeding. Judge Kobly decided last week to send the case to the grand jury.
Repeat offenders: It is clear that Howell isn't a first-time offender, yet there wasn't any sense of urgency when his cases went before Milich months ago. Statistics developed by the Youngstown Police Department show a disturbingly large number of repeat offenders, criminals who are neither afraid of the police nor intimidated by the municipal judges. These individuals must be dealt with expeditiously and harshly every time they appear in court.
Many residents of the city have lost faith in the criminal justice system and the case of Zachary T. Howell simply adds to the feeling of hopelessness.