The back and forth over backlog in Toledo and Lucas County courts

The back and forth over backlog in Toledo and Lucas County courts
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 7:03 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Is a backlog in Toledo and Lucas County courts affecting the fight against crime in the area? Toledo’s mayor says it is, while court officials say no such backlog exists. Now we’re taking a look at some of the numbers.

This debate was reignited Thursday as Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz named an interim police chief and new city prosecutor. He brought up the court system and the backlog he believes is playing a role in the violence we see on the streets. It’s a backlog the courts say isn’t there.

Keeping any streets safe, which includes Toledo, not only involves police but the courts as well. A court system Mayor Kapszukiewicz is taking to task.

“We arrest folks, they wave at us and say ‘bye I’ll see you on the street in a couple of hours,’ and I’m not blaming a judge. I’m not blaming anyone,” said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.

Mayor Kapszukiewicz says without jury trials during some points during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the system got bogged down with cases. He believes the backlog to be major and consequential.

“The two year long backlog that exists in the criminal justice system makes is difficult to remove the bad actors from the streets in a permanent way. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying that is a reality,” said Mayor Kapszukiewicz.

Some judges disagree with his assessment.

“We’re in 2023 now. I think most of our cases from the 2020, 2021 era are long taken care of,” said Michael Goulding, a judge in Lucas County Court of Common Pleas.

Judge Goulding says the back log isn’t here. Court stats sent to Ohio’s Supreme Court show 18, 25, and 34 jury trials respectively in 2020, 2021 and through November of 2022.

“At least over here in Common Pleas court we kept the ball rolling. Yeah it slowed us down and made things difficult,” said Judge Goulding.

The court administrator in Toledo Municipal Court says jury trials were only stopped for a few months in 2020 and resumed in the summer of 2020. Lisa Falgiano says their court is not 2-3 years behind and isn’t sure where those numbers come from.

Stats submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court show monthly clearance rates on criminal cases starting with 2020. Some months the rate is less than the optimal 100% in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Some months are over 100 percent.

Then there is the overage rate. That measures how a court’s pending case load is lagging past state guidelines. Ohio Supreme Court standards say the target is less than 10% percent. In 2020 Toledo Municipal’s felony number was .2%. In 2021 it was more than 17%. In 2022 that number is nearly 15%.

Then there is a bond issue. Voters in November approved a measure saying public safety can be considered by judges in a cash bond situation. Mayor Kapszukiewicz says that should help.

Judge Goulding says public safety was always considered as long as the defendant got the proper hearings. Plus, the Supreme Court guidelines used to be that the judges should err on the side of letting people out because they were presumed innocent. And that a bond shouldn’t punish someone before a possible conviction.

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