UPDATED: 07:55 AM
When The Stark County Political Report started this series, it was advertised as being a "two part" series.
But as the headline above indicates, today's blog is entitled "PART 3 OF A (originally intended) TWO PART SERIES."
But if this story breaks the fashion the SCPR thinks it might, it could rival other headline blogs that The Report has been in the thick of; namely, the Phil Davison video (which went viral on the Internet in September, 2010) and the George T. Maier controversy when he was removed as the Stark County Democratic Party appointed on November 6, 2013.
Accordingly, it is likely that today's blog is not the last in this series. However, if this series continues on, the headline format will remain PART # OF A TWO PART SERIES to serve as a reminder to readers that one never knows where a SCPR blog is going to lead.
The Report learned late yesterday that WOIO, Channel 19, and investigative reporter Carl Monday is instituting an investigation of the judicial conduct of Stark County Probate Court (Trial Court) judge Dixie Park.
The Report is told that parties-in-interest in another guardianship (In re: Balog) forwarded one of or both the SCPR Monday and Tuesday blogs to a lead official at Channel 19 and that Monday was directed to conduct an investigation.
The focus of today's blog is on:
- the continuing saga of the story behind the Fifth District Court of Appeals (Appellate Court) decision in the case In re: Finan in which the Appellate Court found that Judge Park had violated the Constitutional Rights of Barbara Lockhart of Alliance in jailing her for not timely providing documents and making appearances in the Trial Court.
- the suffering and indignities incurred by Lockhart in being jailed by Judge Park, and
- an amplification of allegations made by local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley on certain judicial conduct by Park, and
- where the Park matter might be headed.
WHERE THE MATTER MIGHT BE HEADED
Jeff Jakmides, attorney for Barbara Lockhart, did not know how to respond when Appellate Court Judge Scott Gwin inquired on hearing the horrifying story of an ordinary Stark Countian being thrown into the Stark County jail asked: What can we do for your client?
Jakmides' response: "You can clear her record."
Another of his responses was "You can refer the matter to Ohio's Disciplinary Council."
Response from the Appellate Court judges?
But, of course, there should have been no response on the "you can refer [Park] to disciplinary counsel."
For although Ohio judges and attorneys are obligated under the Rules of Professional Conduct to report to Disciplinary Counsel any conduct done by attorneys/judges that they witness or become aware of; anyone who refers is prohibited by those same rules in revealing having done so.
The only person who can discuss such a referral is the subject him/herself.
So it is possible that one or more of the Appellate judges did a referral to Disciplinary Counsel.
The SCPR has information to the effect that Craig Conley may have filed such a referral on Park. And The Report asked Conley whether or not he had done so. But to no avail. Conley would neither confirm or deny that he had done so.
Another point of oral argument before the Appellate Court by Jakmides is his description of an exchange that took place between himself, Judge W. Scott Gwin, Judge William B. Hoffman and Judge John W. Wise.
A paraphrase: (Jakmides speaking) "Judge Hoffman, Judge Wise, Judge Gwin; you've been around. We've got a trial lawyer: Judge Gwin. We've got former trial courts judges: Judges Hoffman and Wise. We've got former prosecutors: Judges Hoffman, Wise and Gwin. We've got a judge who has been a defense attorney: Judge Gwin.
Note: And Judge Wise is the son of former Stark County judge Reuben Z. Wise, Jr. who died suddenly and tragically (1985) while serving as Stark County Probate Court judge. The SCPR knew Judge Reuben Z. Wise, Jr. And, it is clear to The Report, that the Lockhart matter would never, ever have occurred in Judge Reuben Z. Wise's court. Not the remotest possibility!!! Reuben Z. Wise was a "bend over backwards" type of judge referred to elsewhere in this blog.After summing up some 120 years of legal/judicial experience as between Gwin, Hoffman, Wise and Jakmides himself, he asks them: "Have we ever seen anything remotely like this in all our combined years?"
Gwin, Hoffman and Wise did not say a word in response. But the SCPR believes they had to be in full accord with Jakmides observation as evidenced by their clear and unmistakable decision in reversing Judge Park.
One legal commenter has observed to the SCPR that these Appellate Court judges not only found that Jakmides had established one legal error by Judge Park.
They went on to do what courts do not generally do (once the court has found one sufficient basis on which to reverse a trial judge) they found that Jakmides had established the second of two asserted Judge Park errors of law.
And not just any law, but the bedrock of American law: constitutional rights law.
It boggles the mind - given In re: Finan that Judge Park thinks she is qualified to get out in the community and talk about constitutional rights.
HORROR, TERROR & HUMILIATION!
As a matter of the public record, Lockhart attorney Jakmides described in some detail in Trial Court and Appellate Court filings the emotional trauma (terror) that Ms. Lockhart suffered as a consequence of being jailed by Judge Park.
And what 56 year old citizen who has never had to deal with the justice system wouldn't be terrified?
Jakmides told the SCPR that when he first visited with Mrs. Lockhart on October 9th, she was in a complete state of frenzy.
Jakmides also tells The Report that in his experience as an attorney (deemed by many in the Stark County bar to be one of Stark's very best criminal defense attorneys) courts bend over backwards (even granting "unreasonable" requests of a defendant) to ensure that all a potential jailed person is afforded all her constitutional rights (notice, opportunity to be heard and the assistance of competent legal counsel, et cetera) before there is any thought of convicting a person such as Lockhart and sentencing them to jail.
The SCPR has obtained a description (from one in a indisputable position to know) of the process Mrs. Lockhart went through from the moment of being arrested on Judge Park's bench "arrest" warrant, to wit:
She would have been taken from her home, handcuffed and placed in the back of a cruiser and then transported to the Stark County Jail, likely in the full view of their family and neighbors, as well as the general public.
Upon arrival at the Jail, Lockhart
- would have been fingerprinted,
- had her mug shots taken,
- required to disrobe and surrender all her personal belongings (including jewelry, watches, etc.), and
- she would have, on October 1, 2013, have been issued a blue Jail jumpsuit and slippers, after which placed in the appropriate Jail population,
At the Stark County jail, Mrs. Lockhart almost certainly was incarcerated alongside prostitutes,. drunks, drug addicts and "lesser" violent offenders, noting that more experienced and hardened inmates often cruelly threaten and abuse "newbies" in "survival of the fittest" fashion.
Note: An extended stay in the Stark County jail means that Mrs. Lockhart suffered the horror and humiliation of being deprived of her liberty in the company of people who did not have the financial resources to get out of jail on bond, had such a terrible history that they were not eligible for bond or in waiting - after having been convicted to be transported to "hard time" prison.
Getting out of jail for those charged but not convicted normally is easy to achieve. Of course, having been illegally convicted, Mrs. Lockhart was not eligible to post bond. Accordingly, she, for her 11 days in jail, was among the most destitute that Stark County has.
As a Stark County jail inmate, Mrs. Lockhart was subject to a strict regimen as to what she was permitted and not allowed to do at what time; and,
And, perhaps, for the first time in her life, Mrs. Lockhart would had to use common showers, toilet facilities and sleeping arrangements with a large number of fellow prisoners.
On being transported to Court for hearing on October 2, 2013, Lockhart would have been taken handcuffed and chained and in her jail-issued jumpsuit and slippers.
Note: On October 2nd, Mrs. Lockhart - who had never been in trouble with the law in her entire life - her attorney says - on the 2nd gets sentenced by Judge Park to 30 days in jail without having been afforded her constitutional rights.
Such trauma, terror and utter humiliation is what Judge Park's unconstitutional denial (reference In re: Finan) of Lockhart of her due process of law rights was in large part, if not completely, visited upon over an 11 day period of time until she secured the legal services of Attorney Jeff Jakmides.An additional alarming factor of the October 2nd hearing, Jakmides says, is that there is no recording, there is no transcript of what actually went on when Park found Lockhart guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced her to jail.
If the "legal thrashing" at the hands of the Appellate Court were not enough to prompt Park to resign her place on the Stark County bench, it seems to the SCPR that the horror, terror and humiliation she visited on an ordinary - no prior record Stark Countian - upon reflection, would be enough for her to do the right thing by Stark Countians.
WHERE IS THIS MATTER HEADING?
It is hard to say.
Of course, the thing the SCPR thinks ought to happen and Judge Park will realize how grievous the consequences to Barbara Lockhart of her legal mistake were and step down.
But The Report does not think that Judge Park will go that easily.
Perhaps WOIO and Monday getting into a scrutiny of the Lockhart and other Park handled judicial matters will be a convincing factor to Park.
Of course, nobody who knows can speak to the matter, but perhaps Ohio's Supreme Court will be taking up the matter in a disciplinary complaint.
Every judge in Stark County and Ohio has an interest in not having on Ohio's bar of justice judges who do not apparently know the fundamental "law of the land!"