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Ohio judge removed over ‘unprecedented misconduct’ including courtroom jokes about bribes, strip clubs

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended indefinitely and removed from office a Cleveland judge for alleged “unprecedented misconduct” over a two-year period that included “blatant and systematic disregard of due process, the law, court orders, and local rules.”

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Carr, elected to the bench in 2011, “also was repeatedly dishonest, treated court staff and litigants disrespectfully, abused her power to issue arrest warrants and find individuals in contempt of court,” according to statement from the Ohio court system.

In March 2021, Carr was charged with five counts of judicial misconduct. Carr violated rules governing the appropriate dress, order, and decorum for courtrooms. 

“Her bench was littered with dolls, cups, novelty items, and junk,” according to the Ohio Supreme Court. “She presided over her courtroom wearing tank tops, T-shirts – some with images or slogans, spandex shorts, and sneakers. She discussed with her staff and defendants a television show called “P-Valley” about a fictional Mississippi strip club.” 

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“She also joked about accepting kickbacks in lieu of fines and having defendants give her and court staff items such as food, beverages, carpeting, or storage space in exchange for lenient sentences,” the court added. “The Supreme Court’s opinion concluded that these actions undermined public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Of the alleged misconduct, Carr was also accused of ignoring a court order to reschedule cases during to onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Carr continued to preside over her regular docket the next week. 

For criminal defendants who did not appear, she ordered them to be arrested and set bonds ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. For defendants who were “brave enough,” according to Carr, to appear in court despite the potential for exposure to the virus, she waived fines and court costs.

During the disciplinary process, Carr agreed to 583 statements of fact and misconduct stretching across 126 pages. 

Among her ethics violations, the judge acknowledged that she often held hearings without a prosecutor present to avoid complying with the safeguards in state law – such as the requirements that a judge informs the accused of the nature of the charge, the identity of the complainant, the right to counsel, and the effect of different pleas.

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The judge also falsified court journal entries by claiming that the prosecutor had amended charges or that she had held hearings to determine a defendant’s ability to pay fines or court costs. 

She also used warrants and incarceration to force the payment of fines, creating a “modern-day debtors’ prison,” resulting in at least five people spending time in jail. 

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