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MAHONING COUNTY Plan includes the courts in Campbell, Struthers



Published: Fri, February 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The board wants judges to be full time, instead of part time.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A revamping of Mahoning County's lower courts is back on track. This time, a planning group wants to roll the county's three municipal courts into the mix.

The county's corrections planning board voted Thursday to once again seek conversion of the four part-time area court judgeships from part-time to full-time positions.

It's something that was in the works for more than a year before being put on hold pending the outcome of a performance audit of county government by the Ohio auditor's office.

Report: The audit report, released in January, recommended switching to full-time judges at the area courts in Austintown, Boardman, Canfield and Sebring. Those courts hear traffic cases, misdemeanor criminal cases and small-claim matters.

The judges there are part time, which allows them to maintain a private law practice as well. The planning board wants to abolish that and make the positions full time.

Under a proposed plan, Austintown and Boardman courts would have their own judge while Sebring and Canfield would share the third judge.

The planning board had initially discussed including Youngstown, Struthers and Campbell municipal courts in its plans, but backed off because of territorial battles that arose in past discussions.

The auditor's report suggested establishment of a metropolitan court system that would include the county and municipal courts.

"I think we would all like to see that," said planning board chairman Mark Huberman. "It's a good idea, but probably not feasible."

Momentum: But board member Tom Carney said the auditor's report could provide the political momentum needed to get the other communities on board, at least with converting to full-time judges.

"I feel insecure about not including them and leaving the job undone," he said.

The panel decided to invite Campbell and Struthers officials to its next meeting and discuss whether they are interested in participating. Only those communities will be invited because their court judges are part time. Youngstown's judges are already full time.

Board member Robert Rupeka said it's important to include the municipal courts in the planning, even if they opt against participating.

bjackson@vindy.com




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