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The Sound of Ideas

Public Defender on Trial

Posted Thursday, December 16, 2010

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A Cuyahoga County judge says the criminal justice system here moves too slowly. Among other impediments, it takes too long for courts to appoint lawyers to indigent defendents and it takes police and prosecutors too long to get around to considering charges. The public defender, he says, is blocking efforts to expand a pilot program that might speed things along. We'll talk to the judge and the public defender as we consider the speed of justice on The Sound of Ideas, Thursday at 9:00 a.m. on 90.3.


Government/Politics, Other, Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement


Judge Timothy J. McGinty, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court
Lew Katz, law professor, Case Western Reserve University
Timothy Young, director, Office of the Ohio Public Defender
Robert Tobik, Cuyahoga County Public Defender

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Pam Peters 9:22 AM 12/16/10

The judge is right.
I have a civil suit in Summit County that has been a nightmare for the past 5 years. I have figured out that lawyers have a class in law school called “How to Delay and Mess up the System 101”. My suit involves a painting company that had both workmanship and damage issues. The attorneys defending him via the insurance company have filed a suit against me for going to the BBB to try and get the problem resolved. I have spent $37,000 to both the painter and my attorney. The process is way too slow and even though this is a civil matter it is part of the problem of the clogged court docket and I now know attorneys don’t care. Our original judge has since retired and we have to start all over again. Courts need to speed up the process. I live with this problem everyday and it has effected my health. I can not afford to have more painters come in and repaint my house and I can not sell it the way it looks now.
The judge is right, light a fire under the attorneys and get the show on the road.

William Thompson 10:59 AM 12/16/10

While Ms. Peter’s has a legitimate gripe, the alleged delay in appointment of counsel for indigent defendants has nothing to do with the pace of Common Pleas Court’s civil docket.  As a assistant public defender working for the Cuyahoga County Public Defender for over thirty years, I can state unequivically that our office has always promoted the earliest possible assignment of indigent counsel.  Judge McGinty’s attempt to implement an assembly line approach to the disposition of lower level felony cases lies at the crux of what is an ongoing dispute regarding the fairness of the early disposition protocol in our county.  This talk of our office impeding the appointment of counsel is purely a diversionary tactic on the part of Judge McGinty.  We have repeatly offered what we belief to be better alternative methods of dealing with these cases, but have been met with resistance by the county prosecutor’s office and this particular jurist.  To minimize the significance of a felony conviction upon any of our citizens is to denegrate the criminal justice system.  We will not knuckle under to media pressure nor placate any judge when we feel that a method being employed is patently unfair to our clients.  We public defenders hold dear the presumption of innocence and the belief that every person is entitled to the best possible representation, not a fast track to a felony conviction and possible imprisonment.

Scott Hurley 2:14 PM 12/17/10

As a caller on yesterday’s contentious program, I thought I’d supplement my question with additional information. 

First, I’ve represented thousands of people in “3D”, the municipal courtroom where preliminary hearings are supposed to take place.  While Judge McGinty was quick to dismiss the procedural safeguard of such hearings as “a thing of the past,” I assert this obsolescence is a ruse.  I’ve written about the topic here in an essay titled, “The Exculpatory Evidence Machine.”

Second, there is unmentioned subtext to the judge’s blame game.  The new county charter, drafted by mystery framers, specifically requires the new government’s charter review commission to address one topic upon its creation in 2011: indigent defense.

If you recall, the idea of an elected public defender was originally floated by Mason, et al., then quickly abandoned as corrupt, self-serving nonsense.  Plan B lies dormant in the charter until the charter review commission is created next year. Judge McGinty knows this, and his opening salvo to publicly discredit Mr. Tobik (with your help?) must be viewed through this lens.


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