Judging the Verdict 

Letters published November 12, 2003

Judging the Verdict
Ignorance of the law is no excuse: After reading Kevin Hoffman's article, "The Verdict Is In" [October 29], I think the verdict should be: Any judge who, in a year's time, has a combination of three decisions reversed on appeal should be removed and barred from the bench. And it should be illegal for an attorney to represent a client in a field in which the attorney is not qualified or has not practiced for the last year.

Judges should know what they are doing, and ditto for attorneys -- justice for the accused and the victim depends on it!

I have heard it said: "Our justice system is a joke!" Perhaps it is not a joke, but a circus, in which the unbelievable occurs and ignorance of the law runs rampant. It appears that their "day in court" is a bad day for the accused and the victim -- no assured justice for either.

Bill Smith

Just for the record: Thank you, Kevin Hoffman, for the complimentary vignette. Permit me to offer two corrections:

1. The reference to not holding sexual predator hearings was misleading. The concern was whether the sexual predator statute involved an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers. This related only to defendants who had already been sentenced to prison. I have never failed to hold a sexual predator hearing for offenders who were being sentenced by me. Although the Court of Appeals disagreed with me on imprisoned offenders, the General Assembly later amended the statute to correct the problem.

2. Your description of the difference between Mr. Mason and me over the grand jury burden of proof was inaccurate. I never told the grand jury it must find beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard for the grand jury is whether the state has sufficient evidence to establish the probability of guilt, and the grand jury was advised that to establish guilt, a trial jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt.

Again, thanks for the complimentary vignette.

Judge Burt Griffin

A low blow: As a high-volume criminal defense attorney, I could find several well-thought-out reasons to criticize the judges mentioned in "The Verdict Is In." I believe that most jurists would concur that the name game practiced in Cuyahoga County exists, and the result is not the most efficient means of selecting our court. That is why this offensive and disrespectful drivel is an embarrassment, not only to the judges unfairly and anonymously targeted, but to the lawyers who ought to be ashamed and publicly reprimanded for responding.

If the writer had concentrated on alternatives to the present system, as opposed to absurd and irrelevant categorizations such as "Most Charming," "Most Annoying," and "Most Attractive," perhaps this piece would have had some journalistic integrity. To subject our judiciary system to a National Enquirer-type best-and-worst list, with members of the bar hiding behind this high school yearbook-type crap to vent their frustrations, is not only the lowest form of childlike mockery, but a complete affront to those of us who still have at least an ounce of decency and integrity.

Between the constant, repetitive, and boring political hazing of the prosecutor's office by the Free Times and the junk you spew forth weekly as investigative reporting, it's no wonder that The Plain Dealer continues to survive without any meaningful competition.

David Kraus

Outing a protected class: While reading Kevin Hoffman's article, I had no problem replacing the names mentioned with those of judges from Franklin County. When the problem of incompetent judges is so widespread, one has to look to the leadership in the judiciary. Hoffman touched on that when he mentioned the problem of getting a judge disqualified. It's "See no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil," once someone is elected. Thanks for showing us the realities of the legal system. Wish more papers would do in-depth articles the way Scene does.

Ruth Costakos

A matter of opinion: One wonders what has happened to our values, when we read Kevin Hoffman's story on judges. Scene had an opportunity to pioneer a creative investigative piece. Hoffman's personal opinion of many judges destroyed the chance.

What is it about Judge Saffold that arouses strong negative reactions from weak white men? Judge Saffold rightfully complained about the Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Bar Associations. We in the black legal community are appreciative. However, some of the bias and prejudices are still present. Please note the assessments of Judge Emanuella Groves (an efficient African American judge) and Judge Torres (a young Hispanic judge). Both of them received questionable evaluations, and both deserved better.

Judge Saffold is a strong, efficient woman. She hasn't been intimidated by men of Hoffman's caliber before, and she doesn't appear to be bending.

Vicki Lynn Ward

You do the math: I saw the scathing criticism of Kevin Hoffman's "The Verdict Is In" [October 29] in the Free Times. While the "Nose" may be an "expert in many things," survey sampling isn't one of them. He claims your response rate was only .005 percent, but that's incorrect. To get that number, he divided the number of responses by the population size. The correct method would have been to divide it by the sample size, which would have yielded about 10 percent. Evidently, the "Nose" is also inexpert at paying attention to the very sources quoted in his piece, one of whom said that "10 percent or 55 responses, would be phenomenal." Hello? Isn't that the very number of responses the "Nose" admits Scene got, a couple of lines later?

In the unlikely event that you failed to notice this yourself, feel free to appropriate my analysis.

Michelle Heyer
Cleveland Heights

Echoes and reflections: I read with interest Kevin Hoffman's poison-pen article regarding members of the Court of Common Pleas. It appears easy to quote from people who are afraid to stand up in public and state their own views.

Lawsuits inevitably end up with one side losing, which means that the lawyer will not take credit himself for the loss, nor will he give credit to his opponent. Therefore, the only person to attack is the judge.

Contrary to the opinions of some who feel that the county is weak, please be advised that our 34 judges do 25 percent of all the work of all courts in the state.

Hoffman's story was no more than an echo chamber for individuals who have no courage to meet, face to face, the person they accuse. This author is obviously lacking in backbone or substance. Why does Scene find these quotes newsworthy?

Judge Richard McMonagle

Hobbled by hobbits: "The Verdict Is In" was dynamite and confirms investigations that lawyers are fearful to come forward and report judges who are ethical hobbits. I congratulate you on a great story. It's good to see a paper willing to report the real news.

"Bound and Gagged" [October 29], also a great story, really complements the front-page story with the results of the opinion poll. It's nice to know there are some journalists and papers that still have the balls to expose the truth about this so-called justice system.

David Palmer
El Dorado Hills, CA

Flogging the Hoggers
Victims, victims everywhere: I am writing in response to the letters about "Big Game Hunters" [October 1]. It seems that many women who wrote took this article personally. I do not understand why. I believe the "hunters" and the "plus-sized" ladies they seek are a match. Both groups lack self-respect, and self-respect is not determined by size.

As for the overweight, so-called "voluptuous" women who wrote -- here we go again, with the sideways comments about women who consider their health a priority. We make the effort to stay in shape, and we are a constant target for a number of overweight women who want to believe that thin and no brains are synonymous. Think again, ladies. I thought we were supposed to be on the same side.

Lori Roman
Sagamore Hills

With anger toward all: It is rare that I read anything other than the letters in your rag. However, for some reason I was compelled to the "hogging" story. How could you? And a woman wrote this? I was horrified about the topic and more so that it was given space. Who runs this paper? I am appalled.

As a 43-year-old woman who has put on the dreaded pounds, I feel that I must defend some of us women. Did you know that the majority of women who have been raped do not deal with it for at least 20 to 30 years? I didn't either. Did you know that the majority of rape survivors carry around extra pounds as emotional armor against the pigs who raped them?

I was raped 22 years ago and never told a soul. I was ashamed. Until I read the disgusting article that exposed men who use women as a sport for their sexual gain, I didn't think I could get any angrier. And to think that a woman wrote it.

Sallie Opicka

A disgrace to their species: "Big Game Hunters" isn't about how immature men view fat women; it's about how immature men view all women. Those men are young, insecure, boastful, and abusive. They're demeaning to humankind, not just "fat women."

While you may be right that it's just a very small subculture, it doesn't deserve much attention. Did you intend the article as a warning to fat women? I hope your next article describes a healthy sociological phenomenon.

Gretchen Mettler
Cleveland Heights

Bad Rap for Rah
At least he tried to say something nice: I could hardly believe Tim White's letter ["Tim Says Rah," October 22]. He gets a "twinkle" in his eye because Scene is free?

A "twinkle" in the eye because of a free newspaper? Jeez, it sure doesn't take much to make Tim happy, does it? The word "simpleton" springs to mind.

Being handed the keys to a pristine 1953 candy-apple-red Buick Skylark convertible is a good reason to get a twinkle in the eye. But a free newspaper? Nope. Not even Scene.

Louis Pumphrey
Shaker Heights

Let There Be Light
We're all in this together: It seems as if every problem in this country is race-related ["Nigger Dave," October 15]. Wal-Mart is supposed to be a family store, but it's pretty obvious that employees have forgotten a small factor in what keeps families together. It was a black man who invented the traffic light. It was a white man who discovered electricity. So in order for any of us to get from point A to point B, we need each other. We need people like Dave Thomas, who are willing to accept people's differences in order to run a business.

The only reason Wal-Mart didn't immediately terminate Dave was that they were scared of being exposed. They knew that if they had more than one report filed against them because of racial differences, they would lose customers and money. But it's people of all races who contribute to our paychecks and help keep our businesses running. If Wal-Mart can't see past that, then they're not worth it.

Samantha Hetzel


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