Friday, March 21, 2014

Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is behind harassment of Cleveland Judge Angela Stokes, a Black Democrat and a daughter of former Congressman Louis Stokes, data suggest, disciplinary counsel Scott Drexel, who investigates judges and lawyers for the Ohio Supreme Court, is also accused of harassing Stokes, Drexel was fired in California as disciplinary counsel for harassing judges and lawyers, O'Connor assigns visiting retired judges to court cases throughout the state that sometimes harass people, often Blacks, women, outspoken attorneys, community activists, and political foes, community activists want judges in multi-judge courts in Ohio assigned and re-assigned to court cases at all times by random draw and not handpicked, bill sponsored by State Representative Bill Patmon and pushed by greater Cleveland community activists, including the Imperial Women Activists Group, is pending in Ohio House for possible state law requiring random draw judicial assignments and re-assignments of trial court judges to court cases in multi-judge courts, Cleveland NAACP attorneys under fire for being quiet on denial of counsel to indigent Blacks in serious cases in Berea, Bedford courts, both suburbs of Cleveland, Cleveland NAACP lawyers greedily side with Bedford, Berea in their illegal denial of attorneys to indigent Blacks, some maliciously prosecuted, data show

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel Scott Drexel

From left: Cleveland Municipal Court Presiding and Administrative Judge Ron Adrine, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes, Ohio State Representative Bill Patmon (D-10), a former Cleveland councilman, Stokes Attorney Richard Alkire, and former Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Presiding and Administrative Judge Nancy Fuerst

From top left: Former Cleveland NAACP President and Current Call and Post Newspaper General Counsel George Forbes, Attorney and Ohio ACLU Legal Director James Hardiman, Attorney Michael Nelson Sr., and Cleveland NAACP President The Rev. Hilton Smith

Retired 11th Congressional District
Congressman Louis Stokes,

a congressional district that includes 
the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland 

Former Bedford Municipal Judge Harry Jacob, an alleged pimp facing charges that he ran a prostitution ring out of the Bedford Municipal Court. Bedford is a suburb of Cleveland

Fat-boy Berea Municipal Court
Judge Mark Comstock. Berea

is also a suburb of Cleveland

By Kathy Wray Coleman, Publisher, Editor-n-Chief,
Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog,
Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog 
Kathy Wray Coleman is  a community activist and 20 year investigative journalist who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper. ( / (


CLEVELAND, Ohio- A Cleveland Urban News.Com investigation reveals that Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel Scott Drexel, hired last year to recommend discipline or not to the seven-member largely Republican and majority White Ohio Supreme Court on Ohio lawyers and judges subject to bar complaints and the impetus behind the harassment of Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes, who is Black, was fired by the California Supreme Court for harassing judges and attorneys as its disciplinary counsel.

Through her attorneys Stokes, late last year, filed a 41-page response with the Ohio Supreme Court, a well worded response to a 49- page complaint filed with the court, also last year, and by Drexel's  disciplinary counsel office of attorneys that he supervises, but that is officially monitored by the Ohio Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide the matter in conjunction with a recommendation from a three-judge panel. Drexel, data subsequently show, often follows the unspoken sentiment of the Ohio Supreme Court, which means that his authority is in fact limited, political pundits say.

The disciplinary complaint alleges that Judge Angela Stokes, 60 and first elected to the Cleveland Municipal Court bench in 1995, utilizes too many court resources, and that she has mistreated court personnel, attorneys, and defendants. 

Some of the allegations in Drexel's complaint date back 15 years, a sign, say community activists, that Stokes is being harassed because she is Black, female, a Democrat, and from a famous Black family still fighting for voting rights for Blacks and the poor in Ohio. Community activists say that Drexel is breaking all the rules via his hypocritical obsession with trying to nail Stokes when many of her actions, like numerous personal bailiffs (an option), extended court hours (also an option), and making lawyers wait in line can be addressed by changes in court rules across the board. Lawyers, say activists, should wait their turn anyway, just like defendants are required to do, a disproportionate number of whom are Black.

But activists also want Stokes and some other trial court judges in municipal and common pleas courts in the county to be more lenient in jailing non-violent people when leniency fits the crime, some of the people with jobs and families.

Drexel recommended that Stokes undergo a mental exam. But he is not a licensed mental health professional trained to make such a bold recommendation.

The high court of Ohio , through a three-judge panel, rejected Drexel's overreaching demand for a mental health evaluation, interfering, apparently, with his efforts to publicly destroy the Black judge's  reputation without due process of law. Data show that such an unorthodox demand in the midst of preparing to answer disciplinary charges is routine against women judges and lawyers often targeted by political foes, and it is antithetical to the overall nature of the purpose of the now prejudicial disciplinary process for Ohio judges.

Cleveland Municipal Court Presiding and Administrative Judge Ron Adrine on Friday removed Stokes from hearing criminal cases, though he had no such authority where only the Ohio Supreme Court can discipline Ohio lawyers and judges and by state law (Ohio Revised Code 2701.031) only Presiding Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Nancy Fuerst can involuntarily reassign municipal judges on cases, and only following the granting of an affidavit of disqualification or prejudice filed under state law.(Editor's Note: Effective January 2014 Fuerst is no longer the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Administrative and Presiding judge. That position is currently held by Judge John Russo).

Fuerst routinely denies affidavits of disqualification
filed against municipal judges of Cuyahoga County, regardless of the merits, and the judges relieved of reassignment often retaliate against the complainant, data show.

Ohio municipal court judges hear traffic and misdemeanor criminal cases and civil cases with damages sought at or below $15,000.

Stokes said that she will fight the illegal gesture and called Adrine's actions warrant-less and void of "due process."

But Adrine has support from Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who assigned visiting retired Cleveland judge Mable Jasper to take over Stokes' criminal cases, cases also to be heard by Adrine and the 11 other judges on the Cleveland Municipal Court bench.

Stokes, said Adrine, can still hear civil cases.

A Republican and former Lt governor, O'Connor, sources say,  wants to get at Stokes' daddy, retired 11th Congressional District Congressman Louis Stokes, the older brother of the late Carl B. Stokes, former mayor of Cleveland and the first Black mayor of a major American city. The elder Stokes, 88, is the first Black in Congress from Ohio, and how better to do it than with two Blacks, Adrine and Jasper, a traveling judge among O'Connor's hired pets that she routinely sends around the state on criminal and civil cases. 

And  most of the retired judges, who typically make in excess of $500 a day, are corrupt, and some fix cases, data show. But Jasper, one of a handful if that of Black retired visiting judges,  is liked, and was a popular elected Cleveland judge, before she retired.

None of the allegations in the complaint against Stokes have any serious validity, said Stokes attorney Richard Alkire, who added that "and none of them  require discipline by the state's high court since my client has not violated either the Ohio Judicial Code of Conduct, or the Ohio Lawyer's Professional Code of Responsibility, the assessment instruments for determining the level of discipline against a judge or attorney licensed in Ohio, if any."

Louis Stokes has endorsed Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate for governor, over incumbent Gov John Kasich, a Republican like O'Connor.

Community activists from the Imperial Women Activists Group and other greater Cleveland grassroots organizations want trial court judges in multi-judge courts in Ohio assigned and reassigned to court cases by random draw at all times and successfully lobbied state Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10), a Cleveland Democrat, to introduce a still pending bill to do just that, House Bill 216.

The Ohio Constitution gives O'Connor, as the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, authority to assign retired visiting judges to trial court cases in Ohio, which usually occurs when a originally assigned judge assigned by random draw withdraws voluntarily, for one reason or another. But whether due process requires that the chief justice's assignments and reassignments are at random is unclear, and has not been readily tested in the courts. And sometimes administrative trial court judges like Adrine in the Cleveland Municipal Court or Fuerst in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas where felonies and other matters are heard, including expensive lawsuits, do the reassigning by handpicking of their colleagues after sitting judges voluntarily withdraw from cases, favoritism aside. And  O'Connor as the chief justice can under state law (O.R.C 2701.03) reassign a common pleas judge in Ohio she disqualifies from hearing a case if she grants a properly filed affidavit of disqualification, also filed under state law, though the judge complained of must, by state law,  be given an opportunity to respond to the complaint.

Hence, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, now O'Connor, hears affidavits of disqualification filed by a party or the party's lawyer seeking the involuntary removal of a common pleas court judge in Ohio from a case and determines  if the judge at issue will be ousted from the case or not, and chief county common pleas judges in the state's respective 88 counties like Fuerst in Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland and Stokes, decide the same relative to affidavits of disqualification filed against municipal court judges that seek their removal from individual cases. And Fuerst  has denied at least two of them filed against Stokes. (See state law  also known in this instance as Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) 2701.03, to seek to disqualify a common pleas judge over a case and see O.R.C. 2701-031 to seek to disqualify an Ohio municipal court judge from a case).

O'Connor, sources say, wants blood against anybody involved in pushing the potential passage by the state legislature of Patmon's bill (HB  216) for random draw assignments and re-assignments for trial court judges at all times for due process protections. And the popular chief justice has allegedly used corrupt White visiting and retired judges to harass Black community activists that support the bill, data show.

O'Connor's traveling retired visiting judges, including retired Barberton, Ohio Judge Michael Weigand, also strip Blacks of bonds without a bond forfeiture hearing and take on cases the Berea Municipal Court has no jurisdiction over because they belong initially in Middleburg Heights Mayor's Court, and so will fat-boy Berea Municipal Court Judge Mark Comstock. His corruption, like Weigand's, is also outright racist, and highly unconstitutional, data show.

Those retired judges, including Weigand, and some sitting judges like Judge Brian Melling in Bedford Municipal Court, and fired Pimp Judge Harry Jacob, a former Bedford judge, actually deny indigent Blacks counsel, data show, a majority in that court of whom are Black.

Jacob,57, was recently disqualified by the Ohio Supreme Court as judge of the Bedford Court after an indictment on charges that he was pimping women and running a prostitution ring out of the court, among other charges. Bedford is a suburb of Cleveland, as is Berea, a court with visible KKK-tendencies and a local rule on juries independently instituted by Comstock himself, the regular judge elected to the Berea Court. That rule, likely unconstitutional, lets Comstock pick his own jury participants in Berea court even for visiting judges like Weigand, old and not necessarily of sound mind and body, data show, but a favorite of O'Connor.

Comstock's juries are by design all White for a judicial lynching of poor Blacks forced to represent themselves in  Berea court where he sits on the sidelines and lets corrupt White visiting judges do his dirt. Comstock routinely harasses Black and female criminal defendants maliciously prosecuted, and then withdraws from the cases, public records show, and Justice O'Connor then sends in the closer, a visiting retired judge like Weigand happy to get a big buck, data also show.

And Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose ruled that Comstock was harassing defendants that won cases by making them pay court costs, and ordered the monies returned. (Editors Note: Ambrose was overturned by a state appellate court and the Ohio Supreme Court , under the leadership of his crony O'Connor, backed him, but said the practice of making defendants who win in court pay had to stop)

Data also show that that racial discrimination, including the denial of counsel to indigent Blacks in Berea and Bedford courts, has been supported by former Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, a part time Cleveland attorney and general counsel for the Call and Post Newspaper, Ohio's Black press, and Cleveland Attorneys Michael Nelson Sr. and James Hardiman, who is also the legal director for the Ohio ACLU.

Nelson and Hardiman are accused by community activists of monopolizing the Cleveland NAACP legal  redress  and criminal justice committees to allegedly block help for disenfranchised Blacks in the alleged exchange from monies for their law firms from the office of
the county prosecutor, and the city of Cleveland. Forbes, 81, a former city council president and unsuccessful mayoral candidate decades ago,  did it too, data show, and also benefited by monies handed to his law firm by Cuyahoga County prosecutors and the city of Cleveland.

The Rev Hilton Smith, a vice president at Turner Construction Company and an associate minister at Greater Abyssina Baptist Church in Cleveland, took over as Cleveland NAACP president in 2012 and things got better, activists say. But Hardiman and Nelson are still doing in Blacks under the guise of the local Civil Rights organization. ( / (