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HamCo judges' order aims to plunge backlog of criminal cases

Posted at 8:08 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 10:53:50-04

CINCINNATI — Facing a backlog of criminal cases in Hamilton County, judges are opening their doors to help people in limbo with a new order this week. The order, which was signed on May 1, requires masks to get into the courthouse and opens the doors to anyone ready to plea or take a sentence.

The first signed court order on coronavirus welcomed "critical cases only,” but with no trials or grand juries, hundreds of cases are on hold, including several of Scott Rubenstein's clients.

"We're creating a huge backlog of cases and if we don't try to get something accomplished now when the courts do open up it's going to be a disaster,” Rubenstein said.

On Tuesday, judges met to vet solutions, and from Friday until June 1, they agreed to expand dockets.

Each judge can tackle five cases a day, but only for those willing to plead and accept sentences.

Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Kubicki told WCPO the latest move is just the beginning.

"There's no perfect solution,” Kubicki explained. “We're also medically screening people so that we'll take temperature and if anybody displays symptoms or has a fever above 100.4, they will be turned away and not admitted to the courthouse."

Rubenstein says his clients are frustrated, and lawyers are too. Since police are arresting fewer people, lawyers are getting fewer cases.

But those appointed by the state who get paid only after trials are being allowed to collect early.

"Nobody relishes this. But it's something that we have to bear with,” Rubenstein said.

For more information on the order, click here.