Class action lawsuit filed vs. Norwalk

A class action lawsuit filed in federal court claims Norwalk’s municipal court violated the law in jailing four different defendants for failing to pay their fines.
Tom Jackson
Mar 12, 2014

 

The lawsuit filed against Norwalk Municipal Court, former judge John Ridge and the city of Norwalk seeks class action status and claims the court jailed defendants for nonpayment of fines without bothering to hold hearings on whether the defendants could afford to pay the money.

Ohio’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the practice and accused Norwalk’s municipal court and other municipal courts of essentially running “debtors prisons” that put the poor in jail without paying attention to their rights.

The Ohio Supreme Court responded to the concerns by issuing guidelines a few weeks ago to all of Ohio’s judges.    The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Toledo and assigned to U.S. District Judge James Carr, must overcome the traditional reluctance of the courts to allow governments to be sued. That issue will be one of Carr’s first decisions in the case.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Joshua Ward, of Huron; Jeremiah Stover, of Sandusky; Larry Thornsberry, of Norwalk; and Tammy Dewiel, of Collins.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit, John Gold, of Sandusky, has received permission to file an amended lawsuit.

On Tuesday, Gold said he’ll likely drop the city of Norwalk as a defendant but pursue his lawsuit against Ridge and the municipal court. The city’s only involvement appears to be that its police officers served warrants, as they were bound by law to do, Gold said.

Court filings by attorneys for the defendants argue the plaintiffs have no right to sue. A memo from Toledo attorney Teresa Grigsby says municipal courts can’t be sued and there’s no evidence Norwalk city officials directed Ridge’s actions.

A separate memo from Cincinnati attorney Brian Spiess says federal courts lack jurisdiction over state courts, and Ridge can’t be sued.

On Tuesday, Spiess said he can’t discuss the merits of the case, and Grigsby didn’t return a reporter’s phone call.

“It’s always an uphill climb when you’re trying to sue a government entity,” Gold said.

Gold said he believes he’s found case law that suggests Ridge and Norwalk’s municipal court aren’t immune from lawsuits.

He said a decision from Carr isn’t likely until at least three months after the amended lawsuit is turned in.

“The court’s going to have their work cut out for them on this,” Gold said. “It’s a novel issue”

Ridge retired as Norwalk’s municipal judge at the end of 2012, but remained on the job until May 2013, when Gov. John Kasich appointed Judge Eric Weisenburger as Ridge’s replacement. Weisenburger then won election in fall 2013.

Ridge maintains his law license but is not in private practice, Spiess said.

Comments

BabyMomma

What were the original fines for? That will determine to me who is in the right. If they failed to pay fines for a crime, then jail is a perfect place for them, and their lawyer.

Babo

The suit is over the jailing of people for failure to pay fines without a hearing first to determine whether they can pay the fines. It's an alleged violation of due process of law.

BabyMomma

Wait til people don't pay up on their fines/tax for not participating in Obamacare. If you can't afford health insurance, we'll fine you $1400 a year until you can. If you're a minority or an illegal......you can have it all for free. Welcome to America, where those of us that are from here, get treated like the illegal should.

rgt

Babymomna,
Where can I find this information? It must be on a website describing the in's and out's. I can't afford my insurance. I would like to read up on it! Can you post a link for me(us)?!

worddrow811

Relax, rgt, they are not going to come and get you. This ponzi scheme will collapse before it gets that far.

LabMan
rgt

It's more about getting people to stop posting BS they heard from uncle Jim Bob the racist redneck. If you post you should be able to back it up with factual references. To much BS gets my boots dirty!

holysee

too [too]
adverb
1.
in addition; also; furthermore; moreover: young, clever, and rich too.
2.
to an excessive extent or degree; beyond what is desirable, fitting, or right: too sick to travel.
3.
more, as specified, than should be: too near the fire.
4.
(used as an affirmative to contradict a negative statement): I am too!
5.
extremely; very: She wasn't too pleased with his behavior.

holysee

to
preposition
1.
(used for expressing motion or direction toward a point, person, place, or thing approached and reached, as opposed to from ): They came to the house.
2.
(used for expressing direction or motion or direction toward something) in the direction of; toward: from north to south.
3.
(used for expressing limit of movement or extension): He grew to six feet.
4.
(used for expressing contact or contiguity) on; against; beside; upon: a right uppercut to the jaw; Apply varnish to the surface.
5.
(used for expressing a point of limit in time) before; until: to this day; It is ten minutes to six. We work from nine to five.

jacksonbrowne

Nice. Let the slobs who failed to pay THEIR fines for THEIR actions sue the courts.

However, here is an idea. Just settle with them and then go back after them for their unpaid fines and tack interest and collection fees on top of it. The slobs would have the money to pay their fines and the courts get their monies! Albeit taxpayer money

Steve P

Classic ambulance chaser, did anyone notice that the ACLU didn't file any legal action, hopefully the Court and Judge Ridge will go after lawyer fees and malicious prosecution after the suit is thrown out.

holysee

Please throw them in jail.
That's the way to save taxpayer money.

Factitious

Um...throwing people in jail is expensive. Oh, wait, that was sarcasm, right?