Ohio Supreme Court orders Judge Pinkey Carr to comply with order limiting hearings during coronavirus
Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice on Wednesday ordered Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey S. Carr to comply with a city court order that limited the number of court proceedings amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, however, rejected a request by Cuyahoga County Chief Public Defender Mark Stanton to have Carr indefinitely stripped of her authority to preside over all traffic and criminal court proceedings.
The decision comes after Stanton’s office filed requests with the Supreme Court and the 8th District Court of Appeals seeking to force Carr to comply with Administrative Judge Michelle Earley’s March 13 court order. That order declared that all cases involving defendants who were not in jail would be postponed for several weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19. The court also issued a news release announcing the decision, and posted a notice on its website that hearings had been postponed.
The 8th District on Friday ordered Carr to comply with Earley’s order, which was replaced Tuesday with a more restrictive order.
Carr, in her ninth year on the court bench, held court hearings March 16, 17 and 18 that defied that order and issued arrest warrants for some defendants who did not show up, according to courtroom video and court records. She also told an assistant public defender on March 17 that he could not tell his clients they didn’t need to come to court because of the order, video of the court proceedings showed.
O’Connor wrote that holding hearings that the court had told the public would not take place, Carr “caused confusion and sent mixed messages to the public at a time when clarity and uniform application of the administrative order were necessary.”
Carr initially told WJW Channel 8 that she did not issue any warrants after cleveland.com reported that she had. She told the station that she merely kept her court open because she did not want to turn people away if they did not know about the order and showed up anyway.
In her response to Stanton’s filings, Carr wrote that she waived fines and court costs for the people who did show up if their case resolved as a courtesy for their time.
O’Connor wrote that by doing so, Carr might have given people an incentive to come to the courthouse, “which defeated the purpose of the administrative order.”
The chief justice also noted that Carr did not respond to Stanton’s allegations that she “arbitrarily” issued arrest warrants for some defendants who failed to show up, but not others, and despite the court’s announcement that such hearings would be postponed.
“If the allegation is true, her actions eroded the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and created at least the appearance of bias,” O’Connor wrote.
Stanton, in an emailed statement to cleveland.com, said Carr’s issuance of arrest warrants for people who did not show up to court in accordance with Earley’s order showed “an oblivious indifference to the health and safety of countless individuals who work within the Justice system and also to the public at large.”
“Judge Carr’s actions constituted an affront to all of the fine judges on the Cleveland Municipal Court who recognized their ethical and humane obligation to embrace the Administrative Order and protect our entire community,” Stanton said.
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— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) March 20, 2020
Judge facing Supreme Court action for holding hearings during coronavirus crisis
March 21, 2020
The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Carr to temporarily stop hearing cases after a complaint was filed against the judge for holding hearings during the coronavirus health scare.
Most court operations shut down several days ago to limit the number of people going into the building.
But Judge Carr still held hearings on a number of cases.
Wednesday, Carr spoke to the FOX 8 I-Team explaining why she still heard cases. The judge said she was there and had the hearings if the defendant showed up for court.
She also said she did not issue warrants for people who didn’t show up due to the coronavirus. However, the I-Team found several warrants were issued on cases where defendants didn’t appear.
“I checked the box saying they failed to appear but did not realize this triggered a warrant, that was not my intention,” Carr told the I-Team. “I never meant to issue a warrant. I don’t work in the clerk’s office and didn’t know this would happen.”
When the I-Team checked the docket Saturday on some of the cases, it shows Judge Michelle Earley, the municipal court’s administrative judge, had the warrants recalled and set for a hearing at the end of April.
An Ohio Supreme Court document says Judge Carr is not to hold any traffic or criminal cases and she has until Tuesday to respond.
However, the judge told us, Saturday, she has not been served with any court papers, so she isn’t ready to comment at this time.
Marcus Sidoti, a partner at the law firm Friedman and Gilbert, said he is very concerned about Judge Carr’s actions.
“We are in a time of unprecedented crisis. We must focus on clearing as many people as possible out of our jails and courts to ensure the safety of the public,” Sidoti said. “ Instead, Carr issued warrants for the arrests of people charged with misdemeanors, lied about it, then calls a caring, respected member of the defense bar a “little idiot” after inquiring about the court mandate excusing his clients appearance the following day. Judges cannot be permitted to substitute their personal opinions for the directives of the law, particularly when lives are at risk.”