Friday, June 3, 2016

Ohio State Rep Recently Cited by Cleveland Housing Court Introduces Bill to Abolish Cleveland Housing Court (Before Quickly Deciding to Withdraw It)

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 11:53 AM

click to enlarge State Representative John E. Barnes, Jr.
  • State Representative John E. Barnes, Jr.
There's no question Cleveland is still facing a housing problem. Any quick peek at the city's neighborhoods will show you that: crumbling housing, abandoned structures, all the visible wear and tear still left behind from the foreclosure storm that hit in 2008. 

But a new piece of state legislation had been introduced that would completely eliminate the housing division of the Cleveland municipal court. The legislation, however, was filed by a state representative who has had past problems with Cleveland's housing enforcement powers-that-be — most recently a month before introducing the legislation. 

On May 25th, House Bill 578 was introduced by Cleveland's State Representative John E. Barnes Jr. The proposal seeks to "abolish the housing division of the Cleveland Municipal Court, transfer housing proceedings to the civil division of the Cleveland Municipal Court." Barnes name for the act is the "Housing Court Efficiency and Expansion Act."

This is a topic the state legislator has experience with. Barnes and a company he owns called Embassy Realty Investment Inc have been involved in on-going legal action against the city over the demolition of a piece of property on Lee Road. Barnes sued the city after the city razed the structure (the city cited multiple issues at the property, both with the previous owners and Embassy Realty); the judge eventually ruled in favor of the city, a decision backed up by the appeals court. As Cleveland.com reports, the city is also now suing Barnes to recoup the cost of demolition. 

The state legislator's issues with the court don't stop there. In April, Barnes was issued a minor misdemeanor citation for parking a flat bed truck with expired plates on the lawn of a E. 103 St. address. 

With all Barnes' past involvement with housing issues, is he the right person to call for a complete shake up of the city's housing court? It's a fair question to consider. 

When Scene spoke to Barnes yesterday, he was adamant about not commenting on his ongoing legal action. "I will say yo you that it is no question that what I have personally experienced inspired the legislation," he said. "But it is something I have been working on for years." 

Shortly after, the representative released a written statement. The kicker is that Barnes has decided to pull the legislation. Read the full statement below (with emphasis added by us): 

H. B. 578 the Housing Court Efficiency and Expansion Act is a good piece of legislation, which I have principally been working on for years. My intention with this legislation is to make a difference in how purposeful uniformity, efficiency, impartiality, and common sense fairness is achieved for businesses and middle class people. However, I have had an opportunity to talk with Counsel, who have brought some information to my attention and out of abundance of consideration I am taking steps to have H. B. 578 withdrawn or indefinitely suspended. This does not mean that at some point in time I will not re-introduce this legislation because based on evidence there is historically systematic corruptibility. 

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