Cleveland judge Pinkey Carr acted as ‘game show host rather than judge’, should get 2-year suspension, State Council recommends

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court Professional Conduct Board recommended Friday that justices remove Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Carr from her post as a judge and ban her from practicing law for two years for what state disciplinary counsel called “unprecedented” misconduct. .

In a scathing 58-page recommendation to the court judges, the board wrote that an investigation into Carr’s last years on the bench showed she acted “in a way befitting a host of game show rather than a judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court “.

“She has run her courtroom in a reckless and cavalier manner, unrestricted by law or court rules, and without any measure of probity or even courtesy,” the board wrote. “His actions could only seriously compromise the integrity of the tribunal in the eyes of the public and all who came into contact with it.”

The board adopted the state disciplinary attorney’s Nov. 19 recommendation that Carr see her lawyer’s license suspended for two years for a host of misconduct, including:

  • issue arrest warrants for people who did not show up for court hearings that were to be canceled at the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020;
  • lie publicly about it to WJW-Channel 8 and Cleveland City Court Judge Michelle Earley after and The Plain Dealer reported on his actions;
  • admit to illegally issuing arrest warrants to force people to pay fines to raise money for the court;
  • negotiate plea agreements with defendants in the absence of city attorneys, waive fees and charges for defendants whose birthdays were the same month as the court hearing, then file false journal entries to cover his actions;
  • send people to jail for non-jailable offenses in what amounted to a “debtor prison”.

Council director Richard Dove approved the report. Ohio Supreme Court justices will review the cases and decide whether to punish Carr at a later date.

The backrest is the latest development as Carr struggles to cling to the seat she has occupied since 2012.

The disciplinary investigation began after and The Plain Dealer reported in March 2020 that Carr was flouting an administrative order by Earley posted on the court’s website. The order said all in-person hearings would be postponed due to the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic.

Carr continued to hold in-person hearings and issued several arrest warrants for people who did not appear in court. It has established arrest bonds for many of the accused.

She gave an interview to WJW-Channel 8 after reported on her actions. From her bench, she called the reports “absolutely bogus” and her reporter “idiot”. and The Plain Dealer then obtained courtroom video showing Carr issuing the arrest warrants.

The Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office then filed a motion asking Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to temporarily bar Carr from hearing criminal cases due to his misconduct. . O’Connor ordered Carr to follow Earley’s order.

Carr’s investigation then expanded to cover her behavior dating back to 2019 and uncovered dozens of cases of misconduct, the filing said.

Carr routinely negotiated plea deals with defendants while prosecutors were out of the courtroom, then filed journal entries that state prosecutors amended the charges – which, according to the record, could be a falsification offense in the first degree.

The lawsuit said Carr would systematically give a due date to defendants ordered to pay a fine, and then unilaterally schedule a hearing for a few days after the due date. She did not inform the accused of the hearing and when they did not show up, she issued a warrant for arrest with a bond in order to generate more money for the court. Carr admitted during her testimony in her disciplinary case that she essentially created a “modern day debtors prison,” according to the complaint.

The complaint also details the general decorum in Carr’s courtroom, including frequently holding the court in T-shirts and spandex above the knee and having dozens of cups and knickknacks on her bench. The board described its bench as “littered with garbage from a teenager’s room.”

Carr called the defendants in the arraignment room an “f — boy” and joked that he was exchanging “connections” for his staff in exchange for lenient sentences. She also berated and belittled defendants and lawyers and regularly joked about herself and her staff as casting a TV sitcom about a strip club in open court, according to the complaint.

Carr also jailed a woman after finding her in contempt for rolling her eyes, according to the complaint.

The board credited Carr for taking steps to seek diagnoses and treatment after the state filed its disciplinary complaint against her. Carr said she suffered from depression and anxiety caused by untreated sleep apnea and the effects of menopause. She also enrolled in the Ohio Lawyer Assistance Program, a special service for lawyers with mental health or addiction issues.

Carr promised during the proceedings that she is “Pinkey 2.0” and that she is capable of performing her duties as a judge.

The board, however, stressed that it was troubled that Carr also said she was unaware of the impropriety of her actions on the bench until the disciplinary case began, and that she said the misconduct characterized in the complaints was simply the way she ran her courtroom. .

He also accused Carr of misleading his character witnesses. Several of those who wrote letters attesting to her character outside the court believed Carr was not subject to disciplinary action because she ticked the wrong box on the court papers after the defendants failed to appear in court. of the March 2020 hearings.

Carr’s repeated lies “demonstrate a disturbing dishonesty that permeates [Carr’s] behavior in this case, ”wrote the board.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the author of the report. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Professional Conduct Board wrote the report and board director Richard Dove approved it.

Javier E. Swan