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Gillam, Brown-Clark, Boles complain to state about Youngstown downsizing

Published: Wed, December 5, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

house bill 606

By Marc Kovac



The debate over the elimination of a seat on Youngstown Municipal Court spilled over into the Statehouse on Tuesday, as city officials and a local newspaper editor voiced their opposition to the plan.

City Councilwoman Annie Gillam, Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown Clark and Buckeye Review Managing Editor Clarence Boles are among the opponents who provided testimony to the Ohio House’s judiciary committee, which is considering legislation that would reduce the number of municipal judges.

They and others hope to persuade state lawmakers to postpone a vote on House Bill 606, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Bob Hagan, from Youngstown, and Ronald Gerberry, from Austintown.

“All we’re asking is that our state representative hold a series of public forums, preferably four ... [in] all four corners of the town and solicit the opinion in a fair and reasonable way as to the elimination or continuation of the [judgeship],” Boles said, adding, “We don’t think we’re asking too much to be afforded a fair and responsible consideration for the discussion of [the seat].”

HB 606 would reduce the bench in the municipal court from three to two judges, eliminating the seat that was vacated when Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. retired earlier this year. Gov. John Kasich has held off on appointing someone to the seat, awaiting legislative action on the issue.

The three-judge system has been in place for nearly 60 years and was established when the city had about 140,000 residents. The community is now home to less than half of that total.

According to statistics compiled by the government relations counsel for the Ohio Supreme Court, there were 13,000-plus criminal, civil and traffic cases before the court last year, amounting to 4,421 per judge. That’s less than half the statewide average of 9,629 cases. With two judges, the average would be about 6,600 cases.

The Mahoning County Bar Association and others support the move.

“It is ultimately the recommendation of the Mahoning County Bar Association Board of Trustees that the Youngstown Municipal Court can run efficiently and provide adequate access to justice for the citizens served by the court with two full-time judgeships,” Scott R. Cochran, a member of the group’s consolidation advisory committee, wrote in a statement provided to lawmakers.

But Youngstown officials at the Statehouse on Tuesday said a majority of city council members oppose the consolidation, and the legislature should postpone eliminating the judgeship until the end of next year.

Gillam said the extra judge is needed as the city combats crime, with the existing workload prompting the need for a magistrate to assist with cases.

“They say that the courts are a mess,” she said. “We feel we need at least a year so we can organize our court system and not leave it in disarray. ...They’re talking about saving money, but I think it will save the city money, it will save [the state] money because you won’t have to put as much money in the prison system. And it will also save lives.”

Boles criticized Hagan for moving forward with the legislation, after city officials asked him to “cease and desist.”

“We don’t understand what the big rush is,” added Brown-Clark. “Did not city council vote to tell Rep. Hagan not to pursue this?”

But one Democratic member of the House judiciary committee questioned why the decision should be postponed, given that other courts in the state have had to eliminate seats due to shrinking populations.

It’s not just a local issue,” said Rep. Dennis Murray, from Sandusky. “[It’s a] state issue. Other taxpayers pay for this judgeship. ... Youngs-town is not the first community to have to do this.”

Tuesday was HB 606’s second hearing, and the bill could move before the end of the session this month.


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Will Bertram write about more angry white men, namely Betras, Hagan and Gerberry, who want to eliminate a judgeship from one of the most crime-ridden cities in the state?

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2AtownParent(565 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Brown-Clark is a menace to efficient government. She opposed the safe surrender program and now opposes saving the court system money by eliminating a non-essential judge seat. After the travesty the Youngstown Council members did to the charter amendments suggestion, none of them should be allowed to speak in public about anything, let alone a cost reducing measure since they are unable to do the same to their own governing board. I am not sure what dog the Buckeye Review guy has in this fight.

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3DwightK(1535 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Youngstown doesn't need three courts. The population isn't there to support it. The city also needs a few less council members.

Using the money saved from running the court to hire extra police to help prevent crime sounds like a good idea.

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4republicanRick(1716 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

This is a racist move by Sarah Brown Clark. She has control of a nice little fiefdom where she makes over $ 150,000 in pay and benefits and controls the hiring of her friends. This department should be cut from 30 to 20 people. She will cry racism amid any attempt to save the people of Youngstown's tax money.

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5busyman(239 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I will say this again. If Judge Douglas would have been a non African American, would we be having this discussion? The African American city council community in Youngstown are only thinking about themselves, their good paying city jobs and not having an African American judge representative in the court system. If Judge Douglas was not the one that retired this would have been a no brainer to save TAXPAYER'S MONEY. I am sure that the city will find other jobs for those city workers that are displaced.

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6One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

“We don’t understand what the big rush is,” added Brown-Clark. “Did not city council vote to tell Rep. Hagan not to pursue this?”

The big rush is that people like you and the rest of the useless, trough feeding, old time Youngstown politicians have been wasting our time, money and resources for far too long already.

"Boles criticized Hagan for moving forward with the legislation, after city officials asked him to cease and desist.”

Hey City Council - how does it feel to be ignored when you make your opinions clearly known? It's kind of like the City Charter Amendment recommendations that you summarily threw out most of after burdening volunteers with all that work. My expectation is that you can expect much more of this from those that you are mis-representing. Well, at least I can promise you - that's what you'll be getting from me.

And what the Sam-Hell does Clarence Boles have to do with anything? Why is his whining even in this article any more than mine or any other average citizen's - after all - that's all he is. I can understand the over-paid entitled city employees crying about this, but he has nothing to do with anything.


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