Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David J. Betras is urging that city and county officials and state legislators from the Mahoning Valley meet with Ohio Supreme Court officials to discuss revamping the county’s lower courts.
“The lower-court system in Mahoning County is dys- functional and does not serve the needs of the residents,” Betras wrote in a Jan. 12 letter to Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
Betras said he was responding to a Vindicator story last week that said the top court has appointed Andrew Campbell, a master commissioner in its office of legal resources, to receive evidence and make rulings in a long-running dispute between Youngstown municipal judges and the city administration concerning new municipal-court facilities.
“I suggest we forge ahead with a bolder plan,” for countywide lower-court reorganization, Betras wrote.
“In a time when budgets and tax dollars are stretched to the limits, we must ensure the best system at the least cost. The current system falls woefully short. Consolidation is the only viable economic solution,” Betras wrote.
Betras noted that Mahoning County’s lower courts have nine judges in seven locations. Youngstown Municipal Court has three full-time judges for a population of 67,000, he noted.
However, Boardman and Austintown have a combined population greater than that of the city, but the county courts serving those townships each have just one part-time judge, he added.
In a survey, Mahoning County Bar Association members “overwhelmingly” said they believe the lower-court system here needs to be reorganized, Betras wrote.