WEEKEND ARRESTS Cities settle probable cause suit for $25,000
Holding people all weekend without a court appearance quickly stopped.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown, Boardman, Campbell and Mahoning County will pay a combined $25,000 to settle a lawsuit over people held in jail too long without going to court.
The bill could have been much bigger if quick action hadn't been taken to correct the problem, said Youngstown Law Director Robert Bush Jr.
Thursday, the city's control board approved paying Youngstown's portion, $9,982, mostly for lawyer fees.
The suit: In May, lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Mahoning County residents. They challenged the long-standing practice of arresting people on Fridays and keeping them jailed until court resumed on Monday.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees a probable cause determination within 48 hours, the lawyers said.
Sometimes, prosecutors don't file charges on Monday after reviewing the facts, meaning people spend the weekend in jail, deprived of their freedom, the lawsuit said.
The suit asked for a stop to the court and jail practice, unspecified punitive and compensatory damages and attorneys' fees.
The practice stopped almost immediately, Bush said.
Now, the governments involved assign on the weekends a judge or magistrate, who determines if there is probable cause to hold people until Monday.
That fast action brought a quick settlement, which avoided bringing many other people into the lawsuit, Bush said.
If the case dragged on, an untold number of people who were held through weekends in the past may have become part of the suit. That settlement could have cost far more, he said.
Karena L. Nashbar, a lawyer representing four plaintiffs, could not be reached.
Three plaintiffs each will get $336 for their trouble, with Youngstown paying two of them and Campbell one. Boardman will pay another plaintiff $672.
The $23,946 for the plaintiffs' lawyers will be paid this way: Youngstown $8,973; Mahoning County $7,500; Boardman $4,473; and Campbell $3,000, according to the settlement.