Ohio Judge Issues Arrest Warrants for Courtroom No-Shows During Coronavirus Pandemic

An Ohio judge has been temporarily banned from holding hearings after she reportedly issued arrest warrants for defendants who didn't appear in court during the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 13, Cleveland Municipal Court Administrative Judge Michelle Earley issued an order postponing hearings for all defendants who were not in jail until April 3 in a bid to prevent the "community spread" of coronavirus. But Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Carr didn't comply with the order and last week issued arrest warrants for 33 defendants who didn't appear in court for their hearings, cleveland.com reported.

When Assistant Cuyahoga County Public Defender Mark Jablonski on Tuesday asked Carr if he could tell his clients who were free on bond that they didn't need to go to court, Carr called him a "little idiot," the outlet reported. "Don't call people and tell them not to show up. If they show up, I'm here," she said.

Ohio testing
A health professional walks out of a drive through coronavirus testing site at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio on March 17, 2020 Megan Jelinger/AFP via Getty Images

After he left the courtroom, Carr reportedly mocked him and said, "I'm gonna call them and tell them don't come. I'm sure he is. Little idiot."

The following day, Carr told WJW that she didn't issue any arrest warrants, but cleveland.com reported that video footage of three days' worth of proceedings as well as court documents show she issued a number of capiases — the legal term for an arrest warrant. Earley canceled almost all the warrants issued by Carr last week, according to the outlet.

Carr also said a number of defendants had shown up for their hearings. "People risked their health to get here, so I was here and held the hearings," Carr told WJW. "What are we suppose to do, turn them away?"

On Friday, Carr was temporarily stripped of her authority to hear criminal and traffic cases by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor after the country's public defender filed a complaint. Carr declined to comment on the Supreme Court's order to WJW, but she said she had checked the box marked "failure to appear" on no-show cases and claimed she didn't realize it would activate an arrest warrant.

"I checked the box saying they failed to appear but did not realize this triggered a warrant, that was not my intention," Carr told the station. "I never meant to issue a warrant. I don't work in the clerk's office and didn't know this would happen." Carr has been contacted for additional comment.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of March 26.

This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of March 26. Statista

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.