Thursday, December 16, 2021

"More Like A Circus"

A 58 page report of the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct recommends the two-year suspension without pay of a Cleveland Municipal Court judge who had agreed to "virtually all" of the allegations and had submitted "lengthy stipulations of both fact and rule violations" brought against her.

Findings of misconduct include violations of coronavirus protocols and that she "arbitrarily imposed or waived fines for ludicrous reasons and then created false journal entries to conceal her actions."

The report describes "four examples out of 34 incidents...In each of the 34 incidents [the judge] engaged in similar behavior ,i.e. inappropriate humor, frivolous and often demeaning dialogue with defendants, the arbitrary imposition or waiver of penalties and the creation of false journal entries." reported

 State disciplinary attorneys recommended that Cleveland Municipal Judge Pinkey Carr serve a two-year suspension after an investigation accused the judge of committing an “unprecedented” amount of misconduct.

Attorneys for the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the Ohio Supreme Court that investigates attorney misconduct, recommended the suspension in a Friday filing with the state’s Board of Professional Conduct following a two-day hearing.

Carr is accused of issuing arrest warrants to people who didn’t show up to her court despite the court being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, among a myriad of other issues.

Carr “lacks the judicial temperament required to function as a jurist,” disciplinary counsel attorneys Joseph Caligiuri and Michelle Hall wrote. “And her callous dishonesty casts serious doubt on her ability to serve in a profession grounded on the principles of truth and integrity. The severity and scope of respondent’s judicial misconduct are unprecedented in Ohio.”

The board will make a recommendation to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ultimately makes decisions on how to punish attorneys or judges for misconduct.

Carr’s attorney Nicholas Froning argued in a Friday filing that Carr should receive a stayed two-year suspension, meaning she wouldn’t be suspended unless she violated terms set by the supreme court, including continued mental health treatment and no further misconduct

Froning wrote that Carr suffered from a mood disorder due to several factors, including untreated sleep apnea, and an anxiety disorder. She is now receiving treatment and has made significant strides, Froning wrote.

He argued that she had no prior discipline in 27 years as an attorney and nearly a decade as a judge. Fifty-seven people, including court staff and attorneys, wrote letters praising Carr and sent them to the board.

“Judge Carr engaged in the misconduct while suffering from undiagnosed physical and mental health conditions which contributed to her actions and once diagnosed by a qualified mental health provider, she engaged and continues to engage in a sustained course of successful treatment which actions engaged in by her, has caused her therapist to opine that she can currently competently and ethically engage in her duties,” Froning wrote.
Carr during a two-day hearing in front of the board stipulated to committing the misconduct, records say.
The disciplinary counsel launched an investigation into Carr after Plain Dealer published a story about Carr issuing arrest warrants for people who didn’t show up to court, despite the court being closed for in-person hearings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Carr later lied in interviews a reporter for WJW-TV and Administrative Judge Michelle Earley about issuing the warrants, the disciplinary records said.

The investigation culminated in a 118-page complaint that, among other things, found Carr since 2017 illegally issued arrest warrants in order to make people pay fines and costs in order to generate revenue for the court.
Carr also once sentenced a woman to 15 days in jail for rolling her eyes and another man 60 days in jail for an offense that didn’t warrant any jail time, according to the filing. The disciplinary counsel also wrote they found a daily pattern of Carr making false journal entries, improper plea-bargaining, improperly speaking to only one side during a case, making “arbitrary” decisions and rude treatment of staff, lawyers and defendants.
“All the while, respondent ran her courtroom more like a circus than a respected hall of justice, presiding over cases with no regard for the law, due process, judicial impartiality, or professionalism,” Caligiuri and Hall wrote.
(Mike Frisch)

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