Norwalk judge won’t answer questions about his practices

Municipal Court judge John Ridge said he won’t answer questions about how he treats poor people who appear in his courtroom, or comment on the ACLU's contention that the Ohio judicial system is creating 'debtors' prison'
Tom Jackson
Apr 11, 2013

The judge, via a spokeswoman, sent word Tuesday that he won’t discuss the matter because it’s possible he’ll have to face litigation. Ridge retired Dec. 31, so he’s now a retired interim judge who’s just filling in.

Ridge and another local judge, Sandusky Municipal Court judge Erich O’Brien, were both criticized last week by the Ohio ACLU, which said neither judge is following the law when they send defendants to jail for failure to pay their fines after they’ve been convicted. 

The ACLU said judges can send defendants to jail for not paying fines, but only after holding an on-the-record hearing on the issue, with a defendant’s attorney present, to determine if the defendant ignored the obligation or just didn’t have the money.

The ACLU claims neither judge has been having such hearings.

There’s a sharp contrast in how the two judges have responded to the ACLU.

O’Brien answered questions on the matter Monday, and he said he’ll answer more questions when he gets a chance to study the issue. In the meantime, he said he has halted arrests on warrants for people who fail to pay fines.

The Register left a message for Ridge, asking if he would answer questions or schedule an interview to respond to the ACLU’s concerns. An employee at Norwalk’s municipal court returned the call and said, “Based upon potential litigation in this matter, the judge won’t make a comment.”

The ACLU’s letter to Norwalk Municipal Court, addressed to Ridge and court clerk Pamela Boss, raised the possibility of litigation.

“It is our sincere hope that we can avoid instituting litigation over these issues. Accordingly, we urge you to take corrective action expeditiously,” ACLU of Ohio executive director Christina Link and two other ACLU officials stated in the letter. 

Boss, reached by the Register last week, said she doesn’t set policy — she does what Ridge tells her to do.

Norwalk law director Stuart O’Hara Jr. wrote to the Ohio ACLU on April 5, explaining that the office of municipal judge in Norwalk is vacant because Ridge retired in December. Retired judges are filling in until Gov. John Kasich names a replacement, O’Hara wrote.

It’s Norwalk’s policy to comply with the law, O’Hara wrote. Once a new judge is named, “this matter and your letter will be brought to his or her attention for formal action,” he wrote.

The governor’s office has interviewed three candidates for the judge position, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said.

The Ohio ACLU has scheduled an April 18 meeting with Maureen O’Connor, chief justice of Ohio’s Supreme Court, to discuss the ACLU’s concerns over the “debtor’s prisons” issue and whether state judges are following the law when they send poor people to jail for failure to pay fines.

O’Connor has promised to meet with the ACLU about the issue, and she has followed up on that promise by scheduling the meeting, said Mike Brickner, ACLUS Ohio’s director of communications and public policy.

Comments

The Big Dog's back

So trash the ACLU but stick up for a Judge who is breaking the law. Only in right wing world.

Now The Rest of...

You do realize dog breath both judges are democrats and are being targeted by a far left liberal group that only cares about those who break the law not the hard working middle class. Interesting paradox for you isn't it?

The Big Dog's back

I guess that's the difference between you and me. The law is the law.

Fromthe419

You and I are usually on opposite sides of the fence on most issues, but I am in complete agreement with you on this one. If they have to pay fines maybe intercept their tax returns, wage garnishment or something, but debtor prisons are against the law and these judges are breaking the laws they are sworn to uphold. I'm all in for sending people to jail that break laws, but there has to be a way to work with them to get their fines paid.

The Big Dog's back

Agreed.

Centauri

The simpletons are coming out in force.

Now The Rest of...

"The simpletons are coming out in force." So that what you are calling your inner circle, did your voices come up with that?

mikel

bullydogs says: "..they are almost always above the law when it comes to all the petty crap poor people are force to pay not to mention its.."

yeah like: getting their nails done, owning i-phones, having deluxe cable packages, multiple gaming systems, multiple computers, big screen tv's etc. terrible i tell ya that we should expect them to pay their fines!!

bullydogs1971

...and what do you say about the homeless people who have nothing....still jailed for not paying...btw there is a procedure to follow to determine ability to pay that is being ignore...i believe that is the real issue....and all those cops and judges and their families all have the same stuff...but when they get pulled over all they get is "oh sorry....didnt realize it was you...have a nice day!" and if you cant see this you are truly blind or one of them!

mikel

public works program is what i say. clean the streets, ditches, parks etc of trash, paint fire hydrants, the list could go on and on. pay $9 per hour towards the fine. so, if you owe $90 you are working 10 hours to pay it off.

there are many solutions!

bullydogs1971

oh yeah...i agree...if its not about the money then alternative punishments are great!

mikel

So, we just let those that owe continue to commit traffic offenses and other crimes without being held accountable? Sounds like a good plan....not!

bullydogs1971

just witnessed another hypocrisy... its against the law to text right...fines court costs for us regular citizens...the poor paupers? Just went to the door to kiss my wife goodbye and seen a police officer drive by....one eye on the road, one hand on the wheel....while the other eye is glued to the computer sitting next to her typing away! Like i said the game is rigged...it all about the money stupid!

mikel

take a pic and report it!

bullydogs1971

sorry not that guy...just brought it up to prove a point...momma always told me no one likes a tattle tail..

Kelly

except you didn't prove anything

bullydogs1971

my point is more often than not, those in charge are held to a different standard then the rest of us lowly peasants and those in charge cant follow their own rules...pretty simple, not rocket science.

The Big Dog's back

Agree.

Centauri

I very much agree also. I post comments on various American newspaper blogs. I try to expose rogue FBI and CIA agents who also are after me. I read the various comments and take notes. The higher ups and rich and powerful elites are above the law standards of the average citizen. In other words, they are above the law.

I have met with Judge Ridge and feel that he is an honest person and decent judge. Not corrupt but perhaps misguided by the powers that be who rule over corrupt Ohio.

Kelly

Paranoid much? LOL!

Centauri

Keep on LOL Kelly. The hackers have all information on you.

Kelly

LOLOL! You really are hilarious!

Kelly

Sure they do, dear, sure they do. :)

Centauri

You are in for a great surprise Kelly. I sometimes wish that I never got involved to expose the truth. I hope well for you and your family.

Kelly

No, I don't believe I am

Centauri

Google "KnightSec"

Kelly

Sorry can't Google it. I don't own a tinfoil hat.

Centauri

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

Kelly

lol!

Centauri

I will get the last LOL.

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