Judge fires back at prosecutor over docket criticism

Judge fires back at prosecutor over docket criticism

This week, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty filed motions to remove 14 cases from the docket of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph Russo because they are more than a year old. Now one day later Judge Russo is responding.

He released the following statement:

I was taken aback, and quite surprised by the public accusations directed toward me by my former colleague and friend Prosecutor Tim McGinty.  Without ever consulting me, and using a media release and an unprecedented Motion for removal from 14 cases, Prosecutor McGinty directly attacked my work ethic and respect for the law. Although I am not permitted by the Judicial Rules of Ethics (as Prosecutor McGinty well knows) to comment on the merits of his Motion or any active case on my Docket, there are a few areas I can comment on without violating these rules. I choose to do that now.

Anyone who has practiced in my Court knows that the only thing that matters to me is Justice for all parties appearing before me, delivered with respect and dignity. Prosecutor McGinty makes the misguided claim that the quick disposition of a criminal case best serves our Justice System. As he should know, criminal cases, because of their importance are afforded a number of constitutional protections deemed essential by our Founding Fathers.  These Constitutional dictates require that criminal cases receive additional consideration and protection.

The consequences for ignoring issues such as Due Process and competent representation can result in the compromising of the integrity of criminal convictions. In our Democracy, each individual under the Constitution is entitled to their rights, delivered based upon the facts and merits of their own case.

Even more disturbing is that Prosecutor McGinty's allegations are inaccurate and devoid of any legal reasoning.  He claims that there were 14 cases which were over a year old. Of the 14 cases Prosecutor McGinty spoke of in his attack on me, 3 were already settled before he ever filed his Motion. Another was settled Tuesday. Another one goes to trial on Wednesday. I say the following. I work in his building. If he had a problem with how I handled a particular case or cases, he could have come and seen me personally. My door and Courtroom are always open. What's even more disappointing about Prosecutor McGinty's actions is that he didn't even consult with his own attorneys. Some of the delays were a result of the failure of his own prosecutors to produce key witnesses or their failure to obtain essential discovery.

I have an excellent relationship with the Prosecutors on my floor who I admire and respect, just as I do the excellent defense attorneys I have had the pleasure of working with. If I have a question about a case not moving, I or my Bailiff directly ask what the hold up is and we get immediate answers. Perhaps Prosecutor McGinty should get more in touch with the day to day workings of his excellent people so that he knows what is going on.  I can assure you that every case he is complaining about has either been settled, is set for trial, or is about to be settled. If Prosecutor McGinty was a little more in touch with what is going in his office and a little less concerned about promoting himself he would know that. I believe Prosecutor McGinty's actions are no more then a political ploy to divert attention from his well publicized fights with the police, the African-American Community, and the Criminal Defense Bar.  This misguided approach has now led him to challenge the integrity of the Judiciary.

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