The prosecutor said his assistants aren't leaving unless ordered by a higher court.
By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains vows to keep his assistants in their juvenile court offices even though a judge has turned off their phones and voice mail.
Two county assistant prosecutors assigned to the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center arrived at work Friday to find the phones and voice mail in their offices cut off, Gains said Monday.
The move to cut phone service by Judge Theresa A. Dellick, the juvenile court judge, came after a Wednesday deadline she set for the prosecutor's office to vacate its JJC space. Judge Dellick has said the space is needed for a day-reporting program for juveniles. Gains has refused to leave the space, arguing prosecutors need offices at the center for hearings.
Gains said that his people aren't leaving unless ordered by a higher court. Instead, he equipped his prosecutors with cell phones at taxpayer expense so they can do business from the JJC.
"She's going to have to file a lawsuit to get us out," he said. "She just did that on her own. I have no idea what her problem is. I don't understand her motivation."
Gains said he might file legal action of his own, saying the judge is abusing her discretion. County commissioners by law provide facilities for court operations.
The office space issue can be decided without the judge stooping to cutting phone service, he said.
"I couldn't imagine shutting off the telephones just because I don't like them. I wouldn't think of acting that way. It's childish and juvenile," Gains said.
Gains added that he is reluctant to rebuke any judge but considers the move a serious breach.
Judge Dellick is on vacation and was unavailable to comment. Neither her court administrator nor the lawyer representing her in the office space dispute, John B. Juhasz, could be reached to comment.
Gains is steamed for a variety of reasons, from Judge Dellick cutting off the phones without any warning to the presence inside JJC of noncounty workers -- such as a child advocacy group -- while his people are booted from their quarters.
Gains is particularly perturbed about the phones.
He questions the timing. The phones were shut off while he was out of town on vacation and nobody at JJC alerted his chief deputy that service was being cut, Gains said.
Judge Dellick wouldn't let technicians into the prosecutor's offices when summoned to restore service, he said.
Victims and witness now don't have the phone numbers to call prosecutors or leave messages, which will hurt cases, he said. Prosecutors from the JJC handle an average of 100 calls per day from their office, he said.
Gains said it's ridiculous not to have office space for prosecutors inside the JJC.
His prosecutors deal with cases handled by seven magistrates plus the judge.
Prosecutors are no less important than the judge's staff, Gains said.
"My lawyers have a job to do just like she does," he said.
"Don't you think we should have an office down there?"