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.

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

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