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Hagan says it’s time to consolidate Mahoning County courts

Published: Fri, August 24, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.



By Peter H. Milliken



When it comes to consolidating Mahoning County’s lower courts, there is no better time to begin than the present, according to State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th.

However, others are saying: “Not so fast.”

After the July 31 retirement of Youngstown Municipal Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr., Hagan called a meeting to discuss court consolidation, which took place before a capacity crowd of court, city and county officials Thursday in the Youngs-town State University trustees’ meeting room.

Saying that the municipal court’s caseload is insufficient to justify three full-time judges, Hagan added that Judge Douglas’ retirement provides those seeking cost-efficient administration of justice an opportunity to begin the consolidation process.

“The time has come and is long overdue to consolidate our courts in a way that will save taxpayers money and advance the administration of justice,” Hagan said, noting that court consolidation has been under discussion here for 25 years.

Hagan said he would use the comments made at the meeting to help him draft legislation that would begin the process by eliminating the seat that had been occupied by Judge Douglas.

The state representative had agreed to postpone his introduction of the bill to eliminate that judicial seat at the request of a majority of city council and several former council members.

Hagan also agreed to conduct a public meeting before putting his proposal before the state Legislature for a vote this year.

After the judgeship in Youngstown is eliminated, Hagan said a committee should be formed to develop legislation to complete lower-court consolidation in Mahoning County. Hagan said he wants to introduce that legislation by March 1, 2013.

Sarah Brown-Clark, municipal court clerk, said the study committee should be formed before any legislation or consolidation occurs.

“I support a study for court consolidation. It’s clear to me that the limited jurisdiction courts are duplicating services, and we can condense,” she added.

However, she urged: “Don’t start the train until the passengers are on,” alluding to Hagan’s other career as a locomotive engineer and drawing laughter and applause from the audience.

Brown-Clark urged that Gov. John Kasich appoint someone to finish Douglas’ unexpired term, which ends at the end of 2013.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, a lawyer who has practiced throughout the lower courts here, said, “I refuse to bring something to the floor of the Ohio Senate that isn’t well thought-out.”

At the request of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Kasich has agreed not to appoint a replacement for Douglas, with the expectation that Hagan will sponsor legislation to eliminate the post.

A majority of city council has sent the chief justice a letter urging that a complete lower-court consolidation plan be developed before Douglas’ former seat is abolished.

Youngstown has three full-time municipal judge positions, including two occupied seats and the seat left vacant by Douglas’ departure, and Campbell and Struthers each has one part-time municipal judge.

The rest of the county’s lower court system consists of county courts in Boardman, Canfield, Austintown and Sebring, each with one part-time judge; and four mayor’s courts.

Hagan earlier said he wants to see that number reduced to six or seven full-time judges chosen in countywide elections, but added Thursday that he’d consider dividing the county into eastern and western lower-court divisions to give racial minority group members a better chance of being elected to judgeships.

The state representative said the new arrangement would take six to 10 years to create because he wants to abolish seats when judges retire.

Several members of the Ohio Supreme Court staff sat quietly in the second row listening to the discussion, including Stephanie E. Hess, the top court’s case management coordinator.


1Knightcap(699 comments)posted 2 years ago

"and that will save taxpayers money" Bob Hagan said that? Wow! Hey even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile. Good job Bob.

Clark on the other hand has worn out her welcome. She costs more than she's worth. It's all about more taxpayers money for her and her crowd. "She's got one hand in my pocket and the other hand giving a peace sign".

Kudos to Betras on this too. But don't get carried away with that "Obama Truth Squad".

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2Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 2 years ago

Funny how Youngstown is nearly half its size from 30 years ago, but the muni courts are operating with half the docket they were 30 years ago. In answer to the above posts, no, I don't see any lessening of the tax burden here because city officials are stuck in 1982. Why would they care when we have the highest income tax burden in the state for municipalities? They are spending as much in comparable dollars today as they were more than 30 years ago? And, why?! Can any city elected official answer that question?

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3legaleagle(27 comments)posted 2 years ago

I must agree with Knightcap. The Youngstown Clerk of courts Sarah Brown Clark has worn out her welcome and should be dethrowned as much as the County Clerk of Courts Mr. Anthony Vivo, who only has this job due to his fathers influence. Dont let him fool you or pool the wool over your eyes. Every one knows that Kathi Mcnabb Welsh runs the show. I mean do you voters ever think that the original Vivo has been dead for a long time????? On the other hand He was supposedly sick and would not come to work leaving the chief deputy in charge. Oh but wait he did have time to be on his radio show; hmmmm. Not sick for that. Not to mention his poor judgement in hiring of his supervisors. Infact, he hired an assistant supervisor who was routing against him when Markovitch was running against him. Infact he has 3 supervisors in the title dept because the incompitent head supervisor could not do the job on his own. Also another one of his supervisor's who never comes to work and I have been told has got several reprimands for her lack of supervision yet he still keeps her, just shuffels her from court to court. How's that for the taxpayers pocket. This counties politics is a huge joke it's all about what they can do for themselves and not us the tax payers. I say consolidate the courts all of them, I only Hope that hagan does not wait another 25 years for this to happen. Again, I say consolidation, dethrown both Vivo the jokewho may I add his a horible fashonista and Brown Clark who's fashion leaves a lot to be desired give these people of Mahoning County taxpayers a fresh new face and a reason to be a proud voter.

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4southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 2 years ago

Let's consolidate Hagan's job...ha ha ha

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