Will Mahoning bar association recommend that courts consolidate?

Published: Wed, November 14, 2012 @ 12:03 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



The Mahoning County Bar Association will make a “controversial recommendation” concerning the consolidation of Youngstown Municipal Court at a news conference today, according to a news release announcing the media event.

The news release from the Pecchia Communications public relations firm did not say specifically what the recommendation would be or what the association thinks the court should be consolidated with, but it did say the association’s board of trustees has voted on the matter.

The news release contained the observation that the system of three full-time judges in Youngstown Municipal Court was set up when the city’s population was about 150,000 and that the city’s population has now dropped to about 66,000. The three-judge system has been in place since 1953.

The controversy concerning Youngstown Municipal Court erupted in an August public forum.

Sarah Brown-Clark, municipal court clerk, said at the forum she supports a court consolidation study, and she believes Mahoning County’s lower courts are duplicating services and can be condensed.

She said, however, a study committee should be formed before state legislation is introduced and before any consolidation actually occurs.

Brown-Clark was reacting to a statement by state Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, that he wanted to introduce legislation to abolish the judicial seat from which Youngstown Municipal Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. retired July 31.

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

Hagan said the current Youngstown Municipal Court caseload is insufficient to justify three full-time judges in that court.

Hagan agreed to postpone introduction of his proposed legislation at the request of the majority of Youngstown City Council and several former council members.

Mahoning County’s municipal and county courts should be reduced from seven locations to four and transformed into a countywide municipal court over a six-year period, according to a study released last year by the National Center for State Courts.

The NCSC is a Williamsburg, Va.-based independent, nonprofit court- improvement organization that performed that study for the bar association.

Besides Youngstown Municipal Court, the lower courts in Mahoning County include municipal courts in Campbell and Struthers and county courts in Boardman, Canfield, Austintown and Sebring, each with one part-time judge.

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