The Akron Bar Association wants the Ohio Senate to dump a provision from the state budget bill that would bring a second juvenile court judge to Summit County.
Bar Association President Jack Weisensell said in a news release Wednesday that a resolution requesting such action passed unanimously, with bipartisan support from local bar members.
The issue of adding a judge should be referred to the Ohio Supreme Court for study to see if it meets the court’s wide-ranging criteria for such a move, Weisensell said.
One of the high court’s guidelines, cited by state lawmakers last month when the budget item passed in the Ohio House, establishes time frames for moving pending cases to resolution.
“It appears as though these criteria have not been followed, or even considered, when the language that would add another juvenile court judge in Summit County was added to the pending budget bill,” Weisensell said.
He also said the bar “is expressly not taking a position, at this time, one way or the other,” on the issue, without further study of the guidelines established by the high court in making such decisions.
Earlier this week, Summit County Council voted 9-2 (along party lines) in opposition to the issue.
County Executive Russ Pry said he believes case-movement statistics do not show a need for another judge and that the issue would create an additional financial burden on the county.
Pry estimated it would cost about $300,000 to $400,000 a year to add a second judge, along with the needed support staff.
State Rep. Anthony DeVitis, R-Green, sponsored the budget proposal and was joined by a co-sponsor, Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley Township.
DeVitis said previously that the Summit County Foster Parent Association approached him with the idea. The group, he said, had concerns that foster family cases have become “increasingly complex and long in duration” before being resolved.
Slaby said the budget concerns Pry expressed could be eased by cutting the number of juvenile court magistrates.
“I was told they have 11 magistrates [at the court]. Cutting the number of magistrates and putting in one [more] judge would make a big difference, but I realize there are a lot of things to look into on this,” Slaby said.
Another judge with the authority to sign off on cases, she said, could help case movement.
Don Ursetti, juvenile court administrator, said the court has 10 full-time magistrates and one part-time magistrate for traffic cases.
Summit County Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio issued a statement on the continuing debate, saying all of the court magistrates maintain busy dockets.
“To eliminate more than one or two positions,” Teodosio said, “would cause a delay in case management, which is exactly what Representatives DeVitis and Slaby claim they want to avoid.”
Teodosio said she would be interested in seeing the data upon which the lawmakers are relying.
“Given the court’s declining caseload and the additional expense a second judge would incur, I can’t see how this can be viewed as a fiscally responsible proposal,” she said.
Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff declined to comment on the issue or the bar association’s resolution.
State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Township, said Wednesday evening he was focusing on the overall budget and was awaiting more information on the Summit juvenile court issue “from both sides.”