‘I’m a judge, not a ringmaster,’ says Judge H.F. Inderlied Jr.
Desmond, Gains at odds over who should handle transcripts
By Justin Wier
A visiting judge said the continuing litigation between Martin Desmond and Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who fired him last April, is beginning to resemble a three-ring circus.
“I certainly hope people realize the fact that I’m a judge, not a ringmaster,” Judge H.F. Inderlied Jr. said.
Judge Inderlied presided over a lengthy hearing Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to determine whether a special prosecutor should handle a petition Desmond filed to unseal grand jury transcripts.
Desmond argues that the transcripts will show a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct within Gains’ office; Gains has said the claims have no merit.
Gains appointed Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Matthew Meyer to preside over the matter in April. It had previously been assigned to Todd Raskin, the county’s insurance counsel.
Desmond’s attorneys said Raskin, whose job is to protect the county from liability, had a clear conflict of interest.
While Meyer said Gains does not supervise him, Subodh Chandra, who represents Desmond, argued that the mere fact that Gains appointed him taints the proceedings.
It “undermines the public perception of integrity of the criminal justice system,” Chandra said.
He argued that Gains’ public statements that Desmond’s claims have no merit show that Gains has a personal interest in the matter. Other statements where Gains said he appointed Meyer to act independently show that Gains recognizes the need for an independent prosecutor, Chandra said.
Desmond’s team issued subpoenas to reporters from The Vindicator and its broadcast partner, 21 WFMJ-TV. Atty. David Marburger filed motions to quash the subpoenas Wednesday, but Chandra moved to withdraw the subpoenas once Meyer agreed that Gains’ statements as reported by the media were accurate.
Meyer argued that mere allegations against a prosecutor should not result in that prosecutor being dismissed from a case.
With that precedent, plaintiffs could “prosecutor shop” by making allegations against a prosecutor to remove him from their case.
Meyer said he has no interest in the outcome of the lawsuits between Desmond and Gains and intends to do only what the facts and the law require of him.
Chandra attempted to impugn the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office by listing former prosecutors who had been cited for misconduct. He also accused Meyer of mishandling grand jury proceedings against the Cleveland Police officers who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014.
“Prosecutor Meyer and his colleagues took a dive when it came to challenging the credibility of law enforcement,” Chandra said.
Judge Inderlied said it would be “totally improper” for him to rule on Chandra’s “ancillary review” of the Tamir Rice case.
Meyer declined to comment on sealed grand jury proceedings and said any prosecutor’s office the size of Cuyahoga County’s would have documented cases of misconduct.
Judge Inderlied said he would rule on the motion to disqualify Meyer in the near future.
The judge also presides over an appeal to a State Personnel Board of Review ruling that determined Desmond was not a whistleblower and a civil suit that accuses Gains of intimidation and defamation against Desmond.
The county’s insurance counsel Todd Raskin and Patricia Rubright represent Gains and the county in those cases.
Chandra told the judge he intends to file a motion next week to have Raskin and Rubright dismissed from the civil suit because Raskin participated in a conduct hearing that precipitated Desmond’s firing.
Rubright filed a motion last week that seeks to dismiss many of the claims in the civil suit because Desmond seeks to recover civil settlements for alleged criminal acts.
Ohio law requires a criminal conviction or plea as a condition to civil liability, Rubright argued.