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Monday, March 23, 2020

Court Adjourned: The COVID-19 Effect

     Cleveland Municipal Judge Pinkey S. Carr, a nine year veteran of the bench, was holding court on the 15th floor of the city's Justice Center on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Four days earlier, Cuyahoga County Administrative Judge Michelle Earley had ordered the postponement of municipal court hearings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding that administrative order, Judge Carr issued bench warrants that Tuesday for the arrest of 33 defendants who had failed to show up for their scheduled court appearances.

     Assistant Public Defender Mark Jablonski, appearing before Judge Carr that morning, asked if he could tell his clients they did not have to come to the courthouse due to the COVID-19 situation.

     In response to Jablonski's question, Judge Carr said, "Don't call people and tell them not to show up. If they show up, I'm here."

     To the judge the assistant public defender said, "In light of the pandemic, there's no concern?"

     "For the third time," replied the judge, "I will be here. If people show up, I am here."

     Mr. Jablonski thanked the judge and walked out of the courtroom. A few minutes after his departure, Judge Carr in a mocking tone, said, "I'm gonna call and tell them don't come. I'm sure he is. Little idiot."

     On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Assistant Public Defender Mark Jablonski filed an emergency motion to temporarily disqualify Judge Carr from holding Municipal Court hearings. That day, Administrative Court Judge Michelle Earley canceled Judge Carr's 33 bench warrants.

     Cuyahoga Court Supreme Justice, Maureen O'Connor, on Friday March 20, 2020, stripped Judge Carr of her authority to hear criminal and traffic cases until a ruling was made on the assistant public defender's disqualification motion. Judge Pinkey Carr had until March 24, 2020 to file her response to the assistant public defender's motion.

     Because of COVID-19, America's criminal justice system is shutting down. People are not going to jail, prisoners are being released, and court is adjourned.

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