Published: Friday, November 17, 2006
Fine payers and probationers are turned away after layoffs
The judge plans to take the matter before the Ohio Supreme Court.
GIRARD Girard Municipal Court is no longer the bustling, busy place it had been, but Judge Michael Bernard says he is making do and implementing a new system.
The guard usually stationed at the entrance to the building is no longer there, replaced with a sign reading "Municipal Court" and pointing in the direction of a nearby elevator.
Doors to the court's probation department are locked. A sign hangs on the outermost door with the message "Probation department is closed. All those scheduled to report through Dec. 15 are excused."
Judge Bernard said he is hoping those laid-off staff members are brought back to work long before December. The judge said he plans to bring the matter before the Ohio Supreme Court to obtain additional funding for the court.
On the second floor of the building, clerks who would normally handle court case processing are also missing. In their place are four boxes marked with one of the following words traffic, criminal, civil or journal entry.
Judge Bernard, via memo Wednesday, laid off 11 court employees until Dec. 16 for a lack of funding. The court is now operating with four employees. City officials have refused to give the court additional funds. Several city leaders have said that the court was given enough money, but that the judge failed to manage that money appropriately.
Those four boxes, Judge Bernard said, will now hold the cases that would have normally been processed by his clerks.
Judge Bernard said any criminal case delivered to the court via mail is time stamped and placed in the appropriate box for processing at a later date. Those coming into the court to file civil cases are refused.
Came to pay fines
Several people came to the court to pay fines imposed in criminal cases previously heard in the court. Those people were turned away and told to return to the court at a later date.
"[Those looking to pay] are told thank you for coming in and please come back later. Most are gracious and agree to do that," the judge said.
There were 12 cases scheduled to go before the judge Thursday. Judge Bernard said most of those cases were continued because there is no court reporter, but the prosecutor was able to come to a resolution with a few individuals scheduled to go before the court.
The judge said he also met with his small remaining staff and police representatives from the areas covered by the court to discuss how the court will operate until the full staff is brought back.