LOCAL VOICES: Court pays for itself

Kevin J. Zeiher, President Erie County Bar Association A recent column titled "Court Costs -- Cops" claimed "There is
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Kevin J. Zeiher, President

Erie County Bar Association

A recent column titled "Court Costs -- Cops" claimed "There is no justice" for local law enforcement agencies in the Sandusky Municipal Court because not enough fine money was collected.

I disagree.

The purpose of a court of law is to seek justice for all parties and the society which it serves. Although that objective is not always attained it must be pursued relentlessly. The purpose of a criminal court is not, as the writer implies, to help fund local law enforcement.

Courts have never been able to significantly contribute to law enforcement funding. They have on the other hand operated to serve the ends of justice. Since 9/11 the civil liberties of American citizens have been eroded in the name of national security. In addition to the loss of thousands of lives, the terrorists have exacted a measure of what it means to live in a closed society. The legal system, including our courts and the attorneys that work there, are the guardians of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, constantly fighting the effects of the terror attacks and the loss of our civil liberties. Our Courts have served a much higher purpose than merely collecting court costs.

The Sandusky Municipal Court, like any part of government, must operate in a fiscally responsible fashion. Court costs are important and by law they must be collected before any fines can be assessed. What was ignored in the column is the fact Sandusky Municipal Court operated last year without needing any local taxpayer dollars from the city of Sandusky, Perkins Township, or the villages of Castalia and Bay View. The court paid for itself.

I would hope that law enforcement would be more interested in a court that, in the past, eliminated house arrest for repeat DUI offenders, routinely incarcerated shoplifters (that cost all of us money) and is available 24/7 for bond requests on potentially dangerous domestic violence cases.

I would also hope law enforcement could appreciate the record of more than $121,000 collected by the court last year alone in restitution money, paid directly to the victims of crime.

I would hope that law enforcement would recognize and appreciate that besides the court fully funding itself, it has also raised over $1.1 million dollars to build a modern, efficient and far more secure courthouse for every citizen who visits the court as a party or a witness. The Sandusky Municipal Court is the first court in our area to provide x-ray machines for security for its visitors and staff, an important point for another day and another article.

Give the Sandusky Municipal Court the credit that it deserves in seeking justice at the same time it pays its own way.

Lastly, besides Judge Erich O'Brien there are two other candidates running for the position of judge of the Sandusky Municipal Court. This article is in no way meant to endorse any one candidate, but to reply on behalf of Judge O'Brien when the Code of Judicial Ethics prevents him from doing so.