There’s no social distance in a courtroom, even if it’s not nearly as much of an incubator as a jail or prison. But far more importantly, the continuation of routine criminal proceedings, mostly a waste of time under the best of circumstances, is beyond a pointless risk under current circumstances. Indeed, the administrative judge ordered hearings be limited to jail cases, because requiring bail cases to show up in court, which often includes getting there and back on mass transit, to be told when the next time they have to show up isn’t worth any risk of illness, no less death.
But Judge Pinky Carr will be there.
For those who don’t appreciate what she’s saying, it wasn’t an act of personal bravery so that those who choose to appear won’t find an empty courtroom. What she was saying is that she, apparently proud of not watching TV or paying attention to the admin judge’s order, will sit on her bench and, if a defendant fails to appear, perform her happy function of issuing capiases,
bench warrants. Not only is she proud of her own fortitude, but she’s less than complimentary of Assistant Cuyahoga County Public Defender Mark Jablonski arguing that exposing defendants to risk of infection for the purpose of appeasing Judge Carr might be a poor use of their life.
Jablonski asked whether his office could tell its clients who are not in jail that they would not need to come to the courthouse.
“Don’t call people and tell them not to show up,” she said. “If they show up, I’m here.”
Jablonski asked, “in light of the pandemic, there’s no concern?”
“Hi,” she said. “For the third time, I will be here. If people show up, I am here.”
Whether her continued willingness to sit on her rather elaborately decorated bench is a matter of bravery, stupidity or self-loathing, I leave to people who know her better, but what she’s saying is that as long as she chooses to be there, defendants better as well.
Six minutes after Jablonski thanked Carr and walked out of the room, the judge turned to her courtroom staff and brought up his request again.
“‘I’m gonna call them and tell them don’t come,’” Carr mocked. “I’m sure he is. Little idiot.”
Of the potential impacts of a pandemic, apparently forgetting that the cameras are still rolling in the courtroom after the public defenders have left is underappreciated.
There were two possibilities in light of Judge Pinky Carr’s boldly mocking response to the eminently reasonable and proper concern reflected by Jablonski’s request. They could thank her for her fortitude and give her the “Judge of the Month” award for her toughness in the face of potential death, or they could be less enthralled by her judicial temperament.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor on Friday stripped Carr of her authority to hear any criminal and traffic cases until the justice rules on an emergency motion filed by the county’s public defender seeking to temporarily disqualify her from all such cases.
What bears repeating is that regular appearances in criminal cases are one of the most mind-numbingly wasteful and counterproductive uses of time imaginable. You show up. You sit, often for hours. You wait for your name to be called, and then stand up at the table next to a lawyer you may not know, for about 30 seconds while some mumbo-jumbo is spoken, culminating in another date when you get to do it all over again.
You miss a day of work. You have to find someone to take care of the kids. Your employer is pissed because you’re not there, and you keep not being there each time you have to go to court. You spend money you don’t have to get to court. And all this is under normal circumstances.
Maybe Judge Carr isn’t entirely wrong to be fearless, though the risk of sitting on a bench surrounded by a 12-year-old’s bedroom decorations probably isn’t the same as the defendants who appear before her, but that doesn’t mean she gets to impose the risk of infection, and potentially death, on others upon pain of capiases, on others. Because she might, you know, be wrong, and the price of her poor judgment is ultra vires.
Now that Judge Carr’s injudicious risk to others has been revealed, Justice O’Connor’s decision to strip her of authority was the only proper determination available for the moment, but leaves open the question of how someone so lacking in in judgment could be returned to a position of authority over others at any time.
Judge Carr has no business on the bench. Her calling Jablonski a “little idiot” is a sufficient reflection of her lack of judicial temperament and bias, but no doubt Jablonski is tough enough to survive the name-calling. Far more important is that a person who wears a robe and gets to destroy people’s lives is so lacking in sound judgment as to substitute her cavalier lack of concern for her own health and that of her courtroom staff for that of presumptively innocent defendants who really don’t want to risk death because some wackjob on the bench doesn’t think a pandemic is a big deal.