One of the types of cases that are heard by the Municipal Court are the criminal cases brought by the City of Cleveland Heights involving violations of the City’s building, zoning, fire, and health codes. It is crucial that our Court have a dedicated housing docket that treats these cases with the seriousness that they deserve. The Court should play a role in educating landlords, tenants, and property owners regarding their rights and responsibilities. If I am elected Judge, one of the improvements I would look to make would be to update the Court’s Local Rules to require that companies filing civil actions be properly registered and licensed to do business. I would also consider, where appropriate, prohibiting a property owner with an outstanding warrant in a criminal housing case from invoking the power of the Court in an eviction action. These changes, and changes like them, would help the Court in its ability to deal more fairly with the variety of housing issues that come before it.
Bail, Fines, and Court Costs
The inequities in our system of justice have been all too apparent in recent years. Our courts are by no means immune from those inequities. In recent months, attention has begun to be focused on our municipal courts, and on issues such as the setting of bond and the imposition of fines and costs. If I am elected Judge, I too will have a focus on those issues. For example, I will explore and be open to the possibility of establishing a central booking operation. I will also work with other courts and law enforcement agencies to improve the type of information that is provided to me when bail is first set for people accused of crimes. Equipped with better information, I will be in a better position to know whether the person before me is likely to fail to appear at future hearings and whether that person poses a risk of harm to themselves or to our community.
I would also begin to update the Court’s use of technology, which I believe can be done without raising costs, and which would, in fact, save the City money. For example, by permitting electronic filing and email notifications of hearings, the Court could save significantly on postage, paper, and printing costs. Updating and increasing the use of technology would also allow the Court to be more transparent, giving the citizens of Cleveland Heights a better understanding of what happens at their Court.
The engagement of the Court with our community is important to me. The Cleveland Heights Police Department sponsors weekly ''Meet Your Police'' events where our residents have the opportunity to talk in an informal setting on any topic with a ranking member of the Department. If I am elected Judge, I would have similar events aimed at providing everyone an opportunity to meet and interact with me directly. In addition, although I suspect most people are not aware of it, Judge Buchanan has a mentoring program where he meets regularly with young adults. If I am elected Judge, I would continue this outstanding tradition. I would also make certain that the Court regularly hosts days where our students could come see the Court in action and have discussions with me about the law and the role of the Court.
In the end, these improvements, and others like them, will ensure that I will be able to impartially perform my duties as Judge in a fair, tough, and compassionate manner.