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Published: Thursday, 1/9/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Courts reopen after 2-day closure

Shutdown causes paperwork blizzard, rescheduling flurry

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After a nearly unprecedented two-day closure of area courts, the wheels of justice began turning again Wednesday.

For some criminal defendants, the snow days meant an added few days or weeks of freedom before their sentencing hearings could be reset. For others, it meant staying in jail without a chance to ask the court to reduce their bonds because updated bond reports were not completed Monday or Tuesday.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Stacy Cook, who is the administrative judge for the new year, said canceling court for two days created “a paperwork nightmare” for staff, who spent much of Wednesday rescheduling hearings.

“The Monday after a holiday break tends to be a busy time in general, so to lose those two days becomes a significant paperwork nightmare,” Judge Cook said.

She recommended that defendants who had court dates Monday or Tuesday contact their assigned courtrooms to find out when they are to appear next and to be sure the court has an accurate address for them. Hearing notices are mailed routinely to defendants.

The situation was much the same across the area, although Toledo Municipal Court brought in a skeleton crew and Judge Timothy Kuhlman on Monday afternoon to arraign those arrested over the weekend and booked at the Lucas County jail.

“You have 72 hours to arraign [defendants in custody] so having a snow day is usually not a problem, but when you put it up against a weekend, you have an operational imperative to ensure you accomplish your arraignments,” said Lisa Falgiano, Toledo Municipal Court administrator.

Municipal court cases unassigned to a judge are to be reset for the week of Jan. 21, Ms. Falgiano said, and defendants may check the clerk of courts’ online docket by week’s end for their new hearing dates.

Court observers did not recall the courts being closed for two days in a row because of bad weather since the blizzard of 1978.

At the county courthouse Wednesday, Common Pleas Judges Gene Zmuda and Gary Cook heard criminal cases as they normally do on Wednesday, but in many cases they could not proceed because of delays caused by the weather closures.

Judge Zmuda had to reset sentencings for some defendants because the presentence report had not been finished. One man’s competency hearing was delayed because his evaluation by the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center was not complete.

Both judges made some allowances for defendants who did not make it to court Wednesday.

Defense attorney Jon Richardson told Judge Gary Cook his client was not in court but explained that his office “typically calls the client a couple days in advance to remind them to be here, but because of the weather those calls weren’t made.”

The judge waived the defendant’s appearance and continued the case for a week.

Judge Zmuda called the case of a defendant who was being held at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker but found the man was not in court.

“I understand the bus or train or airplane or snow sled did not run between CCNO and the jail today,” the judge quipped.

Like the others, the case was continued to another week.

“I would imagine we’ll feel the fallout of this schedule for about a month,” Judge Cook said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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