A hearing on a complaint filed by Youngstown Municipal Court judges with the Ohio Supreme Court over court-facility conditions would be best for all involved if it was heard here instead of Columbus, Youngstown Law Director Martin Hume says.
All but one of the 24 witnesses in this matter live in Youngstown, and the hearing, which starts March 17, could take as long as five days, said Hume, who requested the change of venue on behalf of the city council and administration.
Having the hearing in Columbus would force those involved in the case to “incur significant expenses for travel and lodging” with “most, if not all, of this cost” paid by “taxpayers, as all parties and most witnesses are public officials,” according to a seven-page Feb. 14 filing by Hume, Anthony Farris, deputy law director, and Rebecca M. Gerson, first assistant law director.
It would be a “detriment to the function of city government from the absences of so many public officials,” including the judges, the mayor, finance director, buildings and grounds commissioner and city council members, the filing says.
The one-sentence answer Thursday by Andrew J. Campbell, a special master selected by the Supreme Court to handle this matter, denied the motion, however.
Campbell lives in the Columbus area, and is the only person involved in the complaint who lives there.
“We’ll be there on time and in place,” Hume said.
The judges filed a complaint in May 2009 with the state’s high court demanding the city administration and council be compelled to provide the court with “suitable accommodations.”
In early 2010, the judges wanted the city to spend about $8 million to renovate the city hall annex at Front and Market streets as a new courthouse. The city countered with a scaled-down $6 million renovation.
Municipal court on the second floor of city hall, 26 S. Phelps St., has been a longtime concern for the judges, specifically security problems, cramped quarters and poor ventilation.
An effort to resolve the issue through mediation failed in April 2010, and the case went back to the Supreme Court a month later. Little happened until the court ruled Jan. 11, 2012, that a special master would be appointed for the case. It took until June 1, 2012, for Campbell to be selected for that position.
After Campbell issues a written recommendation, the Supreme Court makes a final decision.