YOUNGSTOWN - The Mahoning County Bar Association says the numbers don't add up for the city to have three Municipal Court judges.
The bar made its recommendation at a press conference Wednesday in their downtown offices in the Huntington Bank Building.
Attorney Scott Cochran, who headed up a Bar Association committee to study the municipal courts and if they should replace Judge Robert Douglas, who retired in the summer, and Bar Association President Shirley Christian said the city's shrinking population, caseload and limited resources do not support the city having three judges.
''We believe the numbers are compelling,'' Christian said.
The city's court has two judges, Robert Milich and Elizabeth Kobly, but Gov. John Kasich has yet to name a replacement for Douglas.
State Sen. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, has proposed keeping Douglas' seat unfilled and he has also been pushing to consolidate the lower courts in Mahoning County.
Tribune Chronicle / Joe Gorman
Scott Cochran chaired a committee that studied the need to replace a retired judge in Youngstown.
A previous study done for the Bar Association by the National Association of State Courts also recommended shrinking the court to just two judges. Additionally, a study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development of the city's operations called for just one judge to sit on the court.
Municipal Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark has called for filling Douglas' seat while the matter is being studied. She said that the Bar Association's committee had just two meetings and that the study Cochran cited by the National Association of State Courts also recommended a plan on how to shrink the city's court system but that process was not followed by the Bar Association.
''They ignored the blueprint,'' Brown-Clark said.
Cochran said when the third judge was created the city's population was approaching 150,000 but there are about 66,000 residents now. State law calls for a judge for every 50,000 people.
Cochran said trends during the last three years show that criminal cases are down statewide. He said this is now a unique opportunity with Douglas off the bench to make a change.
Because resources are shrinking and costs go up, Cochran said that if the change is not made soon, the city may be forced to make changes later they do not want to and can not control.
''The cuts that have been done in other places we don't want to see done here,'' Cochran said.
Some are also opposed to keeping the court at two judges, saying that with three judges the court provides services such as mental health court, housing court and veterans court that are invaluable to city residents.
Cochran said there is no guarantee that those programs would be cut with just two judges but if the court stays at three judges and cuts are made, there is a good chance those programs will be cut.