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Judge Defies Order to Postpone Hearings, Issues Arrest Warrants for No-Shows
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A Cleveland Municipal Court judge held hearings for defendants despite a court order to postpone hearings for those who are not in jail in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Judge Pinkey Carr, a former prosecutor, has not only held court hearings but has also issued arrest warrants to defendants who followed the advice on the court’s website to stay home and did not show up to court, Cleveland.com reported.

In an interview with Fox 8, Judge Carr denied issuing any warrants

  
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“Not everyone watches the news, and I wanted to be here and have the hearings for those that showed up,” Carr told the broadcast station. “If they had a hearing and did not show up, I just marked they didn’t come. I did not issue any warrants.”

Carr said she was waiving costs and fines for those who came to her court, which is not uncommon for her to do.

Court spokesman Ed Ferenc said that Administrative and Presiding Judge Michelle Earley knew that Carr held court hearings for two days despite the administrative order. All of the court’s judges got a copy of the order, Ferenc said. 

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The court’s website announced the administrative order, declaring that all hearings scheduled between Monday and April 3 would be rescheduled. 

“Criminal cases scheduled for hearings between March 16 and April 3 are rescheduled to prevent community spread of the coronavirus and for the safety of the people who appear before the court and our employees. Those cases are hereby ordered rescheduled for hearing exactly three weeks from the originally scheduled date and time,” the order says.



Rebecca Ruppert McMahon, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association CEO, told Cleveland.com that the organization is “greatly concerned by the action of any judge that keeps his or her court open for nonessential matters during this time of national emergency.”

Doing so, McMahon said, ignores recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health and other medical and health agencies on social distancing and avoiding crowds of 10 or more people.

“This is not about judicial independence,” McMahon said. “This is about putting the lives of plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, police officers and courtroom employees in jeopardy, as well the lives of their families and friends.”

The court announced Judge Michelle Earley’s administrative order in a news release, stating she acted “in an effort to prevent ‘community spread’ of the coronavirus and for the safety of the people who appear before the General Division of the Court and our employees.”

In an interview with WJW Channel 8, Carr denied the claim that she issued arrest warrants, and explained she was holding court hearings only for those defendants who showed up to court without knowing about the administrative order.

“Why would I issue a warrant for someone’s arrest knowing what’s going on as it relates to corona[virus],” Carr said during the interview. “Simply not true.”

However, a courtroom video obtained by Cleveland.com showed Carr issuing multiple warrants, and placing arrest bonds on several of them.

Carr’s actions amid a growing pandemic left several attorneys baffled.

“Judge Carr’s actions put lives in danger and violated the public trust in a time of global crisis,” Marcus Sidoti, a partner at the law firm Friedman and Gilbert, said in a statement to Cleveland.com. “We commend Judge Earley’s swift actions in protecting those in the court system, the employees of the Cleveland Municipal Court and their families.”



 

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