Ohio Supreme Court creates 'bench cards' after ACLU investigation

Cary Ashby • Feb 7, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Ohio municipal court judges should expect a new "bench card" from the Supreme Court of Ohio soon.

The bench cards are aimed to help judges avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable to pay. According to the ACLU of Ohio, the card lists the legal alternatives to jail, such as payment plans or forfeiting a driver's license and outlines the procedure for determining someone's ability to pay.

An ACLU investigation, which covered 11 counties in Ohio, looked at Huron County bookings from May through the end of October 2012. The research showed "strong evidence of debtors' prisoners practice" in Norwalk, as well as Erie, Richland and Sandusky counties, said Jocelyn Rosnick, an ACLU policy researcher and post-graduate legal fellow.

Of the 1,171 bookings in Huron County from May through the end of October 2012, 259 were for failing to pay their fines or costs in municipal court. That averages out to one out of every five prisoners or 22 percent.

Since then, Eric Weisenburger has replaced the retired John S. Ridge as Norwalk Municipal Court judge.

Weisenburger said his court has implemented policies to be compliant with the law and outlined those policies, as well as discussed other court-related matters, for a story published in Thursday's issue of the Reflector. So you don't miss stories such as this one, you can subscribe to the Norwalk Reflector to receive home delivery and/or the e-paper, which is a complete digital replica of each issue. For more information, call (419) 668-3771 or click HERE.

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