Pictured is Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Presiding and Administrative Judge John Russo
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CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM-CLEVELAND, Ohio- Affidavits of prejudice filed against Ohio municipal court judges in civil, criminal, traffic and other cases to seek their potential removal in the particular cases for alleged prejudice or a conflict of interest are no longer heard by the presiding judge of the court of common pleas in the respective county. (Editor's note: Presiding judge in this instance does not mean a presiding judge over a particular court case but the presiding judge over the judges of an Ohio common pleas court who is elected annually by his or her peers).
Per an amended state law (Ohio Revised Code 2701.031) adopted by the state legislature in 2014, the authority to decide affidavits of prejudice relative to municipal court judges now resides singularly with the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, now Maureen O'Connor, a popular Republican and former lieutenant governor seeking reelection to the bench this year.
Hence, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Presiding and Administrative Judge John Russo can no longer decide affidavits of prejudice filed against municipal court judges of the county, though public records reveal that when he had such authority he, and his predecessors, would routinely disregard them, and regardless of the merits. And many of the judges complained of are Democrats in the heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County, the largest of 88 counties statewide, and of which includes the largely Black major metropolitan city of Cleveland.
Republican presiding judges of the county's 34-member general division common pleas court, which hear felonies, civil cases, and a litany of other legal matters, were no different and also routinely protected municipal court judges from scrutiny and disqualification in conjunction with the filling of an affidavit of prejudice.
This arbitrary and capricious behavior often occurred no matter how the judge at issue behaved in civil, divorce, criminal and other cases, including illegal warrants in bogus criminal cases, malicious and retaliatory prosecutions, and the illegal denial of indigent counsel to those deemed indigent by the court at issue.
State law O. R.C. 2701.03, which mirrors O. R.C. 2701.031 but is for possible removal of common pleas judges for conflict or prejudice, still remains under the purview of the chief justice as to affidavits of prejudice.
Probate, domestic relations, juvenile, and state appellate court judges, per an amendment of R.C 2701.03 by the state legislature, also in 2014, are now also subject to possible removal for prejudice or conflict by the chief justice per the filing of an affidavit of prejudice.
In any instance, the complaining party or his or her attorney, in criminal, traffic, civil and other pending cases, must file the affidavit in the Ohio Supreme Court at least seven days before the next scheduled hearing, and if no hearing is scheduled, it should be noted in the sworn affidavit.
Cases are put on hold as to substance matters until the affidavit of prejudice is ruled upon.
If the chief justice of the state's high court determines via a properly filed affidavit that judicial removal is warranted he or she can do one of three things_assign a handpicked visiting judge, which is usually a retired judge with nothing to lose, issue an order for random draw assignment of another judge if the judge at issue is part of a multi-judge court, or remove the case to another court under another judge.
Rarely are Ohio judges removed from cases for bias in Ohio, whether a municipal or common pleas judge, or otherwise, and some will retaliate for the filing of the affidavit, data show.
Cases that gain notoriety are the most likely to result in a fair outcome and the judge's disqualification. And even in high profile cases the rulings often lean in favor of the judge, favoritism sometimes, say sources, to promote judicial collegiality, and sometimes to allegedly cover up public corruption.
What often happens is that the judge at issue will withdraw before the affidavit is heard and a visiting judge steps in to often further the harassment.
Moreover, if a judge gets disqualified the judge assigned in his or her place often retaliates, data also show.
There is no process for seeking removal, however, of a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court as to an affidavit of prejudice.