CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A new federal administration will mean changes in Northeast Ohio.
There are 114 federal judge vacancies across the country -- two of those vacancies are in Ohio, one on the United States District Court Northern District of Ohio. Judge Donald C. Nugent took senior status, or partial retirement, at the beginning of 2017. He was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1995.
There are 11 judges on the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio. Of the 10 remaining, six were appointed by Democratic presidents and four were appointed by Republicans.
Joe White, the Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University spoke to Cleveland 19 about the changes that may happen as a result of the new administration.
"I think in the long run it's going to depend largely on the legislative agenda of the Trump administration," said White.
In terms of the federal judge appointment, White said that it's key that the district court doesn't operate as a panel.
"I suppose there's a 1/11th higher chance that you'll get a Republican judge," White said.
Judges tend to rule in different ways depending on their political backgrounds, he said, adding it doesn't matter as much as the circuit courts and Supreme Court. In his opinion, he said the appointment of a new U.S. attorney could have more of an impact than the federal judge post.
"It would have its greatest effect on the likelihood that the U.S. attorney would pursue things like cases to try to change the behavior of maybe some other police departments in addition to the Cleveland Police Department," said White.
The current U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Carole Rendon, was appointed by President Barack Obama about six months ago. She will serve in that role until the new president appoints a new U.S. attorney. A nominee for the position will come from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
At a status conference for the consent decree earlier this month, the federal judge in charge of the case addressed questions about the consent decree under a new presidential administration. Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, addressed the questions at the prompting of current U.S. attorney Rendon.
Oliver said that the case "didn't start yesterday," and it is now "an order of the Court." He also said the consent decree is a Court matter and that this isn't a matter for the executive to change or cause it to move in a different direction.
"Bottom line, there will be a Department of Justice, there will be a case in front of me and I see no reason to assume that this will not go forward," Oliver said, despite different lawyers potentially being assigned to the case.
Oliver also urged people not to make any assumptions about any president.
"I am not going to sit here and assume that the incoming president would not want to see this succeed, would not want to see if he fully understood what we are doing here, this city moving forward, to put together and carry out this plan that will be so beneficial," he said.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association president Steve Loomis has been critical of the consent decree. He has said the consent decree is sapping valuable resources. He has said that the money spent enforcing the decree would be better spent on additional police officers or vehicles.
When asked what he thinks is likely to change under the new administration, White agreed with Oliver, that consent agreements are officially matters of the court, but said there are unofficial or informal factors to consider as well.
"I think formally that's not likely to change, but to the extent that it might have been helpful if the DOJ dropped a few hints (like) maybe you don't get certain grants if you don't cooperate, maybe you do get certain grants if you do cooperate. In other words, to the extent the DOJ informally could have helped enforce the consent agreements, then probably there's a little less force behind it," said White.
He said he anticipates a new attitude moving forward when it comes to consent decrees.
"I think it's fairly clear this administration will be much less likely to create new consent agreements to modify the behavior of police forces than the Obama administration was," said White.
White also said he believed that changes the Trump administration makes to healthcare, the budget, and environmental protection will be felt on a local level as well. White did say that though he is an expert in healthcare, he's a specialist in these matters.
"And I haven't a clue," he said.