Judge removed after being accused of presiding ‘in a manner befitting a game show host’

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Judicial

Judge removed after being accused of presiding ‘in a manner befitting a game show host’

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The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended a Cleveland municipal judge after a hearing panel found she “ruled her courtroom in a reckless and cavalier manner” and “conducted her affairs in a manner that suitable for a game show host”.

In an Oct. 18 opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Judge Pinkey Suzanne Carr from practicing law and immediately removed her from her judicial duties without pay. She must remain off the bench during her training suspension.

Carr has served as a Cleveland Municipal Court judge since January 2012. Prior to that, she was an assistant district attorney for Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Ohio Supreme Court says Carr used holidays and birthdays as grounds to waive fines and court fees, issued arrest warrants for defendants for missing hearings she never told them spoke, ignored an order to postpone cases due to COVID-19, and wore inappropriate court attire, including spandex shorts and T-shirts with slogans.

Judge Pinkey Carr
Justice Pinkey Suzanne Carr. Cleveland City Court photo.

The Ohio Supreme Court said Carr’s ethical misconduct fell into these categories:

    • Issue warrants and make false statements.

    Carr did not follow the order of the presiding judge who postponed the cases to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. When the defendants failed to show up on their first court dates, Carr issued warrants for their arrest and set bails ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. Carr, however, waived fines and court costs for defendants she deemed “brave enough” to come forward.

    Carr falsely denied that she was issuing warrants for failure to appear before a television station and the presiding judge.

    • Engage in ex parte communications, inappropriate plea bargaining and arbitrary decisions in 34 cases.

    Carr routinely conducted hearings when a prosecutor was not present, so she could avoid complying with safeguards. She also “unilaterally recommended” plea bargains to unrepresented defendants when no prosecutor was present and accepted pleas “without explanation or discussion of the consequences,” the Ohio Supreme Court has heard.

    In at least six of the 34 cases, Carr unilaterally changed the charges against the defendant and falsely assigned the changed charges to prosecutors in his judgment entries.

    Additionally, Carr “has frequently stated that she waives fines and fees based on the defendant’s date of birth or proximity to the hearing date, a holiday, her own birthday, or dates of birth. of his family and friends,” according to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

    • Misuse of warrants and bonds to demand payment of fines and costs.

    Carr scheduled hearings on the defendants’ ability to pay fines and costs after they failed to pay by the due date – without notifying the defendants or the clerk’s office. When defendants failed to show up, Carr would issue a warrant and set bond between $2,500 and $25,000.

    When Carr finally broke off the hearings without notice, she spelled the B-word giving this explanation in open court: “You notice I’m no longer the bill collector for the clerk’s office. I’m not your b- – – -. You see, you understand? Collect your own money. There you go, player, mm-hmm. Get your own money back, player, mm-hmm. I’m not your b- – – -. Run say that, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. How do you like apples? Pacifiers.

    • Lack of decorum and dignity consistent with judicial office.

    According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Carr “presided over her courtroom from a pew covered in an array of dolls, mugs, novelties and bric-a-brac that her own attorney discovered. like a flea market”.

    Additionally, Carr “at times presided over his courtroom wearing workout clothes, including tank tops, t-shirts (some with images or slogans), above-the-knee spandex shorts, and sneakers,” the state Supreme Court said.

    During a series of open court proceedings, Carr spoke to defendants and staff on a television series called P-Valley which takes place in a strip club in Mississippi. She regularly called one of her ushers “Mrs. Puddin” and announced that his P-Valley the name would be “Passion”.

    She also repeatedly joked that she would be open to some kind of bribe in return for leniency.

    • Abuse of contempt power and failure to challenge.

    Carr later admitted that she abused her discretion by charging a defendant with contempt for rolling her eyes in court and swearing in the dungeon. She also admitted to having “acted in a rude and discourteous manner and to having caused the incident” which led her to cite the defendant for contempt a second time. She did not recuse herself from the contempt case.

Carr had argued that a mental disorder was a contributory cause of his conduct and should be considered a mitigating factor in his ethics case. She also noted that she had a clean disciplinary record and provided 57 character reference letters.

The state Supreme Court, however, said there was no evidence that his mental disorder caused his misconduct. She had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and a mood disorder due to menopause, sleep apnea and stress.

The Ohio Professional Driving Board had recommended a two-year suspension from practice and the bench. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the recommendation as inadequate.

“Carr’s unprecedented misconduct involved more than 100 stipulated incidents which occurred over a period of approximately two years and encompassed repeated acts of dishonesty; flagrant and systematic disregard for due process, law, court orders and local rules; the disrespectful treatment of judicial personnel and litigants; and the abuse of capia warrants and the power of contempt of court,” the state supreme court ruled. “This misconduct warrants an indefinite suspension from the practice of law.”

Two dissidents would have imposed the recommended suspension of two years.

Carr’s attorney, Richard Koblentz, told Cleveland.com they were disappointed with the severity of the penalty. He said Carr acknowledged and apologized for his conduct.

Hats off to Court News Ohio, Legal Profession Blog, Law360, Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland.com for covering the opinion.

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