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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Portune gets bird's eye view in court

There were no $1 million dollar bonds set in arraignment court on Tuesday. At least not while Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune was there.

Most bonds set Tuesday, if any, were less than $5,000. The highest was $250,000 on a shooting case with "life threatening injuries". Many defendants were released on electronic monitoring.

The commissioner was invited by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Brad Greenberg to sit in on a courtroom session Tuesday to get a birds-eye view of what the judges do.
"I invited him because I know he’s interested I the issues. I thought it would be a good idea to see what happens in Courtroom A," said Greenberg.

The invitation came after Portune made a controversial suggestion that the county keep track of the bonds each judge sets to see which judges are contributing to jail overcrowding. Portune made the suggestion after a different judge refused to reduce a $1 million bond on an 18-year-old $21 theft case (it was later reduced by another judge). Portune reasoned that if too-high bonds are constantly being set on low-level cases, those defendants unnecessarily take up needed jail beds.
UPDATE: So here's what Portune learned.
1) It’s a fast-paced machine.
“Just the sheer volume of cases doesn’t give the judges a whole lot of time to reflect on what needs to be done," he said. "They’re very dependent on a system of other players all working together toward the administration of justice. I didn’t see any breakdowns there today.”

2) Electronic monitoring was used a lot.
“He used it, it seemed, almost every other case," Portune said. "One of the oft-discussed notions is that the court should use things like electronic monitoring and they aren’t doing that very much. I didn’t see that. It was used quite frequently.”

Portune also saw two areas where he expects reforms could increase efficiency.
1) When someone is charged with a felony and misdemeanor stemming from the same crime, the charges should be handled together. Currently, the charges are handled by separate courts which creates more court hearings and drags out the case for longer than necessary.
2) Bails shouldn’t be higher just because the defendant lives out of county. Currently a standard $1,000 bond jumps to $2,500 just because the person lives in Clermont or Boone county. That could swell the jail population.

Portune plans to sit in again sometime this week. He is holding firm to his belief that judges’ decisions need to be tracked.

"Beyond bonds I think we should develop a system that provides a snapshot of what judges are doing. How many cases are being handled? How many were disposed of in a time frame? How many were handled in the time frame that the Ohio Supreme Court espouses? How are sentences on identical charges? How are bonds on identical charges?," he said. "All these things present a snapshot of the kind of job our judges are doing and provide general public a better understanding of the job they are doing. That type of thing will be necessary in accountability that justice is being meted out in our courts. I’m not saying this to say anyone’s doing a bad job or a great job. Just that the data should be out there.”

UPDATE: Portune gets praise from NAACP

NAACP President Christopher Smitherman gave Portune kudos for his efforts to track bonds.

“The bond issue is one leg of many legs (of the justice system) we’re concerned about. We are happy to see Commissioner Portune move in this direction,” said Smitherman. “This is a positive step that has not gone unnoticed.”

The NAACP had gone against Portune when he tried (unsuccessfully) to increase the sales tax last year for a new jail and public safety programs. Smitherman had claimed the system was "broken."

Greenberg dealt Tuesday with charges ranging from probation violations and driving infractions to more serious charges like robbery and assault.

Portune pored over courtroom documents, asked questions and listened to more than a dozen cases. during the roughly 75 minutes he was in there. After most of the cases, Greenberg and Portune huddled at the bench for a moment and Greenberg explained things about the case adn the documentation.

"“He was asking about the information that Pretrial provides to the judges,” said Greenburg. “That’s the main information I use in setting bonds.”

For example, the cover sheet for the case summarizes the person’s prior criminal history and whether they’ve failed to appear in the past. It also displays the “point system.” Defendants get positive or negative points based on things like whether they have jobs, houses, or have been on probation before. Points are another factor in setting bonds, he explained.
"He was asking what some of these things mean," Greenberg said.

Portune spoke up just a couple times in the courtroom.

“When was he sentenced?” asked Portune after one case in which the defendant had been sentenced to prison for a drug conviction, but had not been transferred because some pending misdemeanor charges had not been dealt with. “April 4th” came the answer.

Portune has expressed concern about whether inmates are held for inordinate amounts of time in the justice center between the time they’re sentenced to prison and the time they’re transferred. A Criminal Justice Commission on which Portune and several judges sit on are looking into all these issues.

In another case, Portune asked for some explanation about the defendant’s past jail stay.

He also inquired at one point, when the glass was installed separating the judge and court staff from the audience. The judge wasn’t’ sure. Portune eventually got his answer from someone else in the room.

Portune said this was his first time observing court proceedings from this viewpoint. Portune is a civil law attorney.


at 1:50 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is about the first mature, level headed approach I have seen in years to dealing with a political issue. Greenberg calls up Portune, Portune comes over to see for himself.

Why can't our elected officials take this approach instead of bickering back and forth??????

at 1:53 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope he took a vacation day for his little field trip.

at 2:05 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous JC said...

Anybody else think that getting a speeding ticket in East Price Hill is ironic? While the cop wrote the ticket, I saw two or three drug deals and a handful of kids skipping school. I guess the revenue they generate isn't as much as busting real criminals like myself. Go Cincinnati!

at 2:41 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again Todd Photo-op Portune ity keeps his name out in public using his campaign media branch (the Enquirer).

at 3:16 PM, April 08, 2008 Blogger Cheviot Sports Authority said...

Portune is a grandstanding idiot.

at 3:35 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for the notion of separation of power.

at 3:43 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Portune is anything but an idiot. He in engaged in the process, and is willing to take a good, hard look at things and educate himself before he makes rash judgments. More politicians should take such an active interest in things they want to legislate, BEFORE they legislate them. For all of you out there who think he is just grandstanding, you may want to look again. But I bet you won't, as you are too narrow minded.

at 3:51 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Kanye West said...

Todd Portune hates Black People.

at 3:53 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd (Op)Portune never misses a PR stunt does he?

If he could only do for N.KY what he has done for Cinti.,(nothing) we'd all be better off.

at 4:01 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous librariangrrl said...

I agree with Comment 1. What better way to understand the process than to sit in on a session.

Portune is doing his job and people are still complaining--tsk, tsk!

at 4:06 PM, April 08, 2008 Blogger russ said...

When I clicked the link titled "Portune gets a lesson in court", I was really hoping that he had been chastised in court by a judge for robbing the citizens of Hamilton County of their democracy. Why is it that things like Portune's "under the table" deal and Si Leis's "mishandling" of funds is just accepted as business-as-usual?

at 4:18 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Portune wants to be a judge,why doesn't resign from the commisioners and run for municipal court and earn his stripes.Don't tie the hands of the judiciary with politics.Do what you do and leave being a judge to the judges. What a grandstander!!!!

at 5:28 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

portune should be working on reducing the tax rate in Hamilton County, building a jail and figuring out how to get the Freedom Center self sufficnent. If he wants to be a Judge, he should run for that position and until then, try being a commissioner.

at 5:32 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overpaid and underworked...

at 8:04 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

God forbid we should track bonds. The citizens might see this information and not be happy.
And then all us good-old-boys would have some 'splaining to do!?

We don't have to answer questions, do we Simon?

at 8:57 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Portune should have done this in the first place instead of opening up his mouth with some babble he knew nothing about.

Bails shouldn’t be higher just because the defendant lives out of county. Currently a standard $1,000 bond jumps to $2,500 just because the person lives in Clermont or Boone county. That could swell the jail population.

I don't see a problem with higher bails for out of jurisdiction criminals. Plenty of them don't return for the next court date.

Portune has expressed concern about whether inmates are held for inordinate amounts of time in the justice center between the time they’re sentenced to prison and the time they’re transferred.

The average is 10 to 14 calendar days. The bus collects them 3 times a week & takes them to Corrections Reception. The Reception Center has to have bed space to accept them.

Portune needs to sit upstairs in the Big Leagues a couple of times if he wants a good lesson. Perhaps he could get warmed up by sitting with another Judge while the Municipal cases are being heard & hear the excuses & the lies.

And as for Smitherman, who really cares what he thinks about the criminal justice system? That's another one who needs to get his hindquarters to Arraignment Court & across the street to see just how this city is negatively affected by poor decisions. Betcha he'll never do it. Big on mouth, so little on the action.

at 8:58 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...Don't tie the hands of the judiciary with politics.... What a grandstander!!!! 4:18 PM, April 08, 2008?

PATHETIC 'HypocRites'


at 8:59 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

The citizens of Hamilton County will get the out of control crime they deserve.

Mr. Portune, I Hope you met with the victims, of the criminals and asked them how they feel about being victimized again, this time by the courts. Talk to the victim of Domestic violence who had her abuser put on the electronic monitoring and the abuser just walked out of his house to terrorize again. At least when they are in jail they are not committing another crime like the lady who got out on bond last week, only to steal from the blind man at the court house.

The criminal insurgents have made it into the suburbs now. It is only a matter of time before YOU the citizens of Hamilton County are a victim. So remember when YOU the citizens of Hamilton County have to go to court, and the nonviolent offender does not show up on the third or fourth court date, and YOU the citizens of Hamilton County, have taken off work each time, paid for parking and waited three to four hours, only to be told sorry the nonviolent offender didn’t show up again. YOU the citizens of Hamilton County, may start to understand why we need more jail space and high bonds.
For all of the people who say they should not lock up the nonviolent offender, how about giving all of the criminals your address so they know where you live and then they break into your home and not get locked up.
How about asking the victim of the so called nonviolent offender what the CRIMINALS bond should be.

at 9:48 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Smitherman is quite the silver-tongued devil.

"one leg of many legs of the justice system."

So- the justice system is a many-legged- what? Spider?

I hear meth addicts see spiders.

at 10:50 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 5:28, you should be working on learning how to spell. It's 'sufficient', not 'sufficnent'.

You are as big a moron as the Cheviot Jock Idiot idiot is.

at 11:33 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

What will Odd Portune think of next?

PATHETIC 'HypocRite'


at 11:36 PM, April 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The criminal insurgents have made it into the suburbs now."
With all due respect, WTF are you talking about, (Simon?)?
90+% of homicides are inner-city drug, family related.
We can't solve a problem unless we properly identify it first (see Iraq).

at 12:06 AM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the work of Neihaus in the pre-trial investigation division is incredible, but i am concerned that a person who haslost their job, or is young or not established enough to own a home, is getting penalized with their freedom just because they happen to be poor at this time in their lives.

It feels discriminatory - i would imagine that persons who are unemployed and don't own houses are pre-dominantly an disproportionately black.

by the way, Portune didn't ask for this 'photo op", again, it was a republican judge - justlike it was the republican prosecutor who threw a hissy fit and asked for his close up regarding the high bond issue.

at 12:10 AM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'll bet a million dollar 9bond0 that if you compare this court session to greenberg's last Room a court session there will be a huge, huge, huge disparity in the total amount of bonds orderd --- thereby, proving portune's point that with just a little public exposure to these and other contributing factors to the jail over-crowding issue - things will change.
but either way, good for greenberg and portune for working together to define whether a problem exists or doesn't

at 9:30 AM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't agree with all of the "Grandstanding" that has taken place as far as the media coverage, the idea on Portune observing how the Court system works may not be to bad of an idea. Mayben next time he needs to just sit in the seats and observe what goes on there, instead of sitting next to a Judge, and second guessing him. Portune, also has to understand, that the county commissioners have very little to do with bail, etc. The idiot that ends his comments with Had enough, Vote Democrat 2008! I believe the last time that Mr. Portune ran he was a Democrat. Not much has changed from that 7 plus years ago. He(Portune) is still the same Democrat.

at 9:46 AM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:33 PM...were you posting from Adonis on your laptop?

at 10:01 AM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pandora's Box has been opened.

Instead of Portune getting educated, he now has even more plans on how to micromanage the courts.

at 11:40 AM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was an outstanding and very responsible action by both the judge and the commissioner. Justice in Hamilton County is badly broken and finally accountability is coming to those responsible, specifically Simon Leis and a group of county judges. Judges have virtually no accountability so it's understandable why they would resist adding any. Crime in the county is not significantly increasing so why should Simon Leis get a bigger jail to lock up more members of a shrinking community? Shouldn't the people in jail now for crimes such as remodeling their homes without permits be released in favor of a violent offender? Million dollar bonds set for petty theft should be criminalized. The jail size is right for the size of the community. All that is needed now is accountability in deciding who deserves to be in it.

at 1:07 PM, April 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the poster at 8:59PM on April 8th. Why don't you leave America? I think China would suit your ideologies better. It's clear to me you hate the fact that people have rights and due process. It also seems clear you hate the fact that the Constitution offers protection from excessive bails and bonds.

No chicken little the sky is not falling. Stop living your life like as a coward. Hamilton County is very safe as is. Odds are extremely low any one individual that takes the personal responsibility of staying safe will be victimized by violent crime.

at 4:29 PM, May 02, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's about time someone took a look inside that court house. The goings on in that building are enough to drive even the sanest to lunacy!

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