A Cleveland municipal judge has been suspended for inappropriate conduct inside her courtroom. Her state’s highest court “immediately” removed her from the post for bartering deals with defendants on special days and holidays, rewarding them as if she was hosting a game show.
A disciplinary panel called The Board of Professional Conduct filed a 58-page report detailing a plethora of misconduct allegations starting in 2017 and ending in 2020.
The group convened in March of 2021 and accused Judge Pinkey Suzanne Carr of five counts of misconduct involving “more than 100 stipulated incidents” stretching out over a two-year time frame, according to the case docket.
The report noted Carr gave some rationale for her actions, offering she was diagnosed with menopause and sleep apnea. She has been placed on medicine to help her symptoms improve.
While the panel recommended Carr be placed on two-year suspension from practicing law and only reinstated by “certain conditions” mandated by the court, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Ohio Supreme Court released a ruling to remove the judge, who had been serving in a Cleveland Municipal Court over ten years, from her position on the bench “indefinitely.”
The ruling was 5-2, with the justices highlighting times that Carr locked someone up for something as minor as rolling their eyes.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Justices Patrick F. Fischer and Jennifer Brunner, First District Court of Appeals Judge Beth Myers, and Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Sadler joined the court’s opinion.
Judge Myers substituted for Justice Michael P. Donnelly, and Judge Sadler sat for Justice Melody Stewart after the two recused themselves from the case.
Even though Justice Sharon L. Kennedy said she agreed with the findings of misconduct but dissented because of the penalty, saying a sanction of two years would have been enough. Justice R. Patrick DeWine joined the dissent.
Based on the evidence provided by the professional conduct panel, she “conducted business” in the courts like a “game show host,” sometimes hooking defendants up because it was their birthday, it was her birthday or it was a holiday.
The panel submitted 583 stipulations of fact and misconduct that span 126 pages. They also gave the court over 350 stipulated exhibits, proving Carr’s indecorous actions and determining the judge “ruled her courtroom in a reckless and cavalier manner, unconstrained by the law or the court’s rules, without any measure of probity or even common courtesy.”
According to authorities, Carr brought disgrace to her profession when she “conducted business in a manner befitting a game show host rather than a judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court,” demonstrating behavior that “could not help but seriously compromise the integrity of the court in the eyes of the public and all who had business there.”
The state supreme court revealed in the order, “On multiple occasions, Carr joked that she would be amenable to some form of bribe in return for a lenient sentence.”
The justices added, “In open court, she engaged in dialogues with defendants about accepting kickbacks on fines and arranging ‘hook-ups’ for herself and her staff for food and beverages, flooring, and storage facilities.”
Complaints also came from people in the courtrooms, including defendants.
The Ohio Capital-Journal reports one woman, Minnyawn Burkhalter said she just “scolded” and “yelled” at her.
Burkhalter said, “The way she scolded me, yelled at me, I was often mocked, laughed at … I felt almost less than human, honestly and I felt hopeless about it.”
Her lawyer, Rich Koblentz said, “Well, we’re disappointed in that. She was not being appropriately treated for those conditions.”
The attorney also suggested he and his client were not given a fair shake, as she had recently secured him to try the case two weeks prior to the hearing.
“I would have liked to have had sufficient time to have done the development we wanted relative to the evidence and everything else,” he said.
This indefinite suspension does not mean she will never be able to serve again. In two years, Carr will be able to reapply for her law license, however, she will have to prove to the Supreme Court she has done the work to change her ways.