Men sue Norwalk court for false arrest

Plaintiffs say their rights were violated when they were sent to jail for failure to pay fines and costs.
Jessica Cuffman
Oct 15, 2013


Two men have filed a class action lawsuit against the city of Norwalk and its municipal court, alleging false arrest and violations of their constitutional rights.

Joshua Ward, 36, of Huron, and Jeremiah Stover, of 38, Sandusky, are the first two plaintiffs in the case, filed recently in U.S. Northern District Court.

The case refers to past reports from the American Civil Liberties Union, which has accused Norwalk Municipal Court and several other courts in the state of unlawfully sending people to jail for failure to pay fines and costs.

According to state law, a defendant facing jail time for failure to pay a fine has a right to be represented by an attorney at a hearing to determine if he or she can afford to pay the fine.

The ACLU says a number of courts in Ohio have ignored this law, as well as ignoring another law that says a defendant should receive a $50 credit toward a fine for each day in jail.

This past spring, the ACLU sent letters to Sandusky and Norwalk municipal courts, accusing judges Erich O’Brien and the now-retired John Ridge of failing to follow these laws.

Ridge changed his policy last year, after the ACLU started monitoring his court sessions.

Court records show Ward and Stover both received credit toward their fines, based on the jail time they served.

The lawsuit says Ward was forced to serve eight months in jail because of court fines he owed. He received $5,200 worth of credit toward fines in several cases, including three involving driving under the influence, according to court records.

Stover has received $1,221 credit for three months he served, according to court records.

The two men are seeking compensatory damages and the costs of pursuing the lawsuit. Their attorney, John Gold, of Sandusky, is also seeking fees.



Once again, people NOT taking responsibility for THEIR actions! Pay your fines deadbeats and this wouldn't have happened.


Be angry with the judges for NOT TAKING RESPONSBILITY for following the Constitution as they are required to do by oath.

Would you serve months in jail for below minimum wage rates credit against your fines? This is financially irresponsible by the judges as it costs more to house the inmate than the credit received towards fines.

I hope they win big and change the system. It's too bad the judges can't be sued personally for violating their rights and pay the damages out of their pockets due to judicial immunity. Voters should send judges who violate the constitution packing.


Well, when people cry that they can't afford to pay their fines but have multiple cellphones, get their nails done, have gaming systems, laptops, ipads/pods etc then they can afford to pay their fines!!!

Again, take responsibility for your actions! Obviously THEY broke the law not the judge or judicial system as they had to go in front of the courts in the first place.


Do you believe someone with multiple cell phones would want to sit in jail for 8 months for $5,000 reduction in fines? Meanwhile, taxpayers paid over $5,000 to house, feed, provide medical care, and guard this misdemeanor criminal.

The fact that the defendants broke the law and are in court doesn't give the judge the right to break the law too. The judge is supposed to follow the law and protect rights.

Are you suggesting that if you break a leg due to doing something stupid, that the doctor who treats you has the right to break your other leg just because he feels like doing something stupid too?


You are taking this way overboard. If you break the law you pay the fine. If putting someone in jail for not paying their fine is not allowed what is the deterrant from others to commit crimes? Simple as that. Using your thinking a murderer should not have to sit in jail if he/she has other plans for that time period.


You state "If you break the law you pay the fine". Yes, you pay the fine if you have the money to pay the fine. It is against the law to jail someone for not paying a fine without providing them an opportunity (hearing) to explain why they cannot pay the fine. If they are poor and cannot pay the fine the Court is supposed to provide a payment plan or offer public service in lieu of jail.

The fact is the judges broke the law by not providing the required hearings before jailing people for fines. In fact the judges broke a criminal law RC 2921.45 which prohibits intentional interference with any constitutional or statutory right by a public servant. That crime is a misdemeanor of the first degree and arguably every time the judges refused to have a hearing before jailing somebody they committed a crime. The fine is up to $1,000 per occurrence and up to 180 days in jail.

So do you believe that rather than have the Defendant sue the City for constitutional violations and the law breaking by the judges maybe the judges should be charged with crimes in their own courts and forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines and 180 days in jail for each violation of RC 2921.45? After all if you do the crime, you should do the time or pay the fine regardless of status in life.

Dr. Information

Do the crime, pay the fine or do the time. Simple enough.



Good 2 B Me

Here is an idea... get this....


Problem solved.


A Toledo lawyer who sued the city of Port Clinton over a parking ticket will receive a $45,000 settlement.

Council members approved an ordinance during Tuesday night's meeting authorizing the settlement with Jeffrey Zilba.

Zilba was issued a parking ticket in July 2011, then sued the city saying he never had a chance to challenge the ticket, and would face criminal charges if he did not pay the $20. In February, U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Knepp II agreed, saying the city violated Zilba's right to due process. ...

"Several courts in Ohio are illegally jailing people because they are too poor to pay their debts and often deny defendants a hearing to determine if they're financially capable of paying what they owe, according to an investigation released Thursday by the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union."

"The report says courts in Huron, Cuyahoga, and Erie counties are among the worst offenders."
"The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay."

"Launched on September 13, 1996, disinformation was designed to be the search service of choice for individuals looking for information on current affairs, politics, strange science and “hidden information” that seldom slips through the cracks of corporate-owned media."