Teamwork credited for new Y'town muni court

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By Joe Gorman


They say teamwork makes the dream work. The judges responsible for the new municipal court facility say nothing could be more true.

The three judges who pushed for the court over 20 years and five administrations – current Judge Elizabeth Kobly and retired judges Robert Milich and Robert Douglas – all said Thursday at a ceremony commemorating the opening of the new facility at 9 W. Front St. they could have not accomplished the feat without working together.

“Our colleagues in the past didn’t always get together,” Judge Milich said before a large crowd in Judge Kobly’s new courtroom. “That [getting together] makes a big difference.

The new facility, which began operating late last month, houses the court along with the clerk of courts, probation and city prosecutors office in the old City Hall Annex and post office building which was also home at one time to the U.S. District Court. The building also houses the city health department.

For years, the three judges had been lobbying the city for a new facility.

The old court facility, on the second floor of Youngstown City Hall on West Boardman Street, had no public restrooms, a cramped hallway and cramped courtrooms. It was once compared to the decrepit court system of Ukraine by a former state supreme court justice.

In 2009, they submitted a judgment ordering former Mayor Jay Williams to find a new facility. The judges also filed a complaint with the state Supreme Court later in the year.

In 2015, a deal finally was struck between the court and the administration of former Mayor John A. McNally to renovate the annex to accommodate the court.

Judge Milich retired before the end of 2017 as the finishing touches on the court were being made. Judge Douglas retired in 2012.

They were all beaming along with Judge Carla Baldwin, who was elected to the court in November to replace Judge Milich.

Judge Kobly said the key to sticking it out was working with her two former colleagues. She also credited architect Ray Jaminet, who died in April, with the work he did in designing the new courtrooms and keeping a lot of the old woodwork and other features.

“The artisans he had working with him were phenomenal,” Judge Kobly said.

Judge Kobly said everyone had a different role to play in the project over the years. She said Judge Milich was nuanced in politics, while Judge Douglas was the “consummate diplomat.” Her role, she said, was to hasten the project to an end.

“I just get to be the bull in a china shop and get stuff done,” Judge Kobly said.

Judge Douglas said it was an “honor and a privilege” to serve on the court, and the new facility was only made possible through teamwork.

“This is a result of vision, tenacity, persistence and commitment,” Judge Douglas said. “This is an example of what can be. It is a well-deserved gift for the citizens of Youngstown.”

Judge Milich said the teamwork is a perfect example of what he said when he was first sworn in on the court in April 1998 – that partnerships are necessary. He credited court staff, clerk of court staff, probation staff and everyone else who helped make the project a reality.

“No one gets anything done by themselves,” Judge Milich said.

Judge Baldwin said she was fortunate to begin serving as a judge as the new court opens.

“Talk about good timing,” she said.

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