The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 30, 2014

Conneaut court saw jump in some categories in 2013

Totals for felony cases up, impaired driving down

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Conneaut Municipal Court saw a substantial increase in its case load in 2013, according to a report filed by Judge Thomas Harris.

The total number of felony cases for 2013 was 157, compared to 124 a year earlier. Increases were also logged in traffic cases (2,060 total, compared to 1,434 in 2012) and the small claims division (77 total, compared to 67 in 2012).

Case load shrank in other areas, according to the report. Misdemeanor case totals for 2013 (808) was slightly less than the 875 logged the preceding year. Impaired driving cases also were down in 2013, a total of 33 compared to 45 in 2012. Civil cases, too, were lower, 220 (in 2013) to 283 (2012).

Totals are obtained by adding together three sets of numbers: cases pending at the start of 2013, cases filed during the year and cases transferred or reactivated.

In his report, Harris said the court continues to be fiscally responsible and mindful of the city of Conneaut’s delicate budget situation.

“I have always been sensitive to the limited financial resources available to Conneaut City Council,” he wrote. “Several years ago, I agreed to reduce the number of deputy clerks from four to three. In 2012, a deputy clerk left employment (with the court) and obtained a full-time position with the (county auditor). That position has not been filled and funding for that position was not requested in the 2014 budget for the Conneaut Municipal Court. As you can see, the clerical staff of the court has been cut in half and yet the criminal and traffic divisions’ caseload continues to increase.”

Harris said the court’s security, computer and video arraignment systems were acquired and have been maintained by the court the past 22 years through special project funds created through court costs.

“No tax dollars or general revenue funds have been used to pay for the acquisition or maintenance of the said systems,” Harris wrote. “During the 22-year history of the   account, $973,982.84 has been spent out of said funds without any burden being placed on the city or county general funds. Because City Council has a very long history of refusing to finance purchases for the court, the court has been required to maintain balances large enough to enable it to acquire and maintain the needed systems and software required for daily operations.”