COLUMBUS, OH – A Cleveland judge admits she has committed more than 100 serious incidents of misconduct over a period of two years and if that doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps her defense will: Menopause made me do it.
Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Susan Carr’s struggles with menopause and sleep apnea have created within her a “generalized anxiety disorder,” her lawyers argued before the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct has recommended that Carr’s law license be suspended for two years. Her lawyers are this week pleading her case.
Cleveland judge accused of more than 100 counts of misconduct blames menopause, sleep apnea https://t.co/d13NPkUcKW
— WCPO 9 (@WCPO) April 12, 2022
Judge Carr is accused of misbehavior from the end of 2017 to 2020, with one highly notable event being the issuing of arrest warrants for defendants who didn’t appear for court because of government-mandated stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.
She also jailed defendants without “suitable” reason, according to the Board of Professional Conduct, which had filed a 58-page report with the Supreme Court of Ohio detailing the sometimes-bizarre orders coming from the Carr bench.
Carr has been a judge with Cleveland Municipal Court since January 2012 and previously served as a prosecuting attorney for Cuyahoga County.
Cleveland attorney Nicholas Froning told the court:
“There is no question that the conduct engaged in by Judge Pinkey Carr was egregious.”
In case you’re confused, Froning is the judge’s attorney.
He appeared to dive head first into the culpability portion of the case, essentially saying, “Your Honor, my client is guilty,” because the misconduct was otherwise difficult to defend. The argument isn’t “did she do it” but rather, “why did she do it?”
Carr is accused of dozens of instances of misconduct that fall into five broad categories and counts:
- Issuance Capiases and False Statements
- Ex Parte Communications, Improper Plea Bargaining, Arbitrary Dispositions
- Improper use of Capiases and Bond to Compel Payment of Fines and Court Costs
- Public Confidence, Lack of Decorum and Dignity Consistent with Judicial Office
- Abuse of Contempt Power and Failure to Recuse
The first count concerns events in March 2020, after the administrative and presiding judge for the Cleveland Municipal Court issued an order suspending courthouse activity in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The report filed by the board states that despite the order, Carr did not reschedule her cases and issued warrants for defendants who failed to appear. She also “rewarded” defendants who did show up in court by waiving fines and costs and rescinding warrants.
In the filing, the board accuses Carr of lying to two media outlets, claiming that she had not issued warrants for people who did not come to court.
“In brief, Respondent very publicly flouted her disregard of an administrative order that was designed to ensure the safety of the public and the court’s personnel during the pandemic,” the report states.
“She punished members of the public who followed that order and lied about it to the press and to the presiding and administrative judge of her court. This created the very danger that administrative order was intended to prevent—the spread of the coronavirus to the public and court’s staff by way of open court hearings.”
The board’s report accuses Carr of routinely conducting hearings without the prosecutor present “to avoid compliance with procedural safeguards without interference from the city’s legal counsel.”
Carr also recommended pleas to unrepresented defendants with no prosecutor present, accepted pleas without explanation or discussion, routinely dismissed cases after unilaterally entering no contest pleas on behalf of defendants, and waived fines and costs without inquiry as to defendants’ ability to pay.
The board accused Carr of ignoring the court’s established procedure to set up contracts to pay fines and costs at the time of sentencing. The report alleges she set her own “Ability to Pay Hearings” without notifying the defendant or clerk’s office, then would issue a capias ordering the arrest of the defendant and set a bond.
The board took issue with Carr’s “lack of decorum and dignity consistent with judicial office,” accusing her of wearing inappropriate attire to the courtroom, such as tank tops, shorts, T-shirts and sneakers.
The report states that Carr also frequently references “Paradise Valley,” a Starz television series about a Mississippi strip club, when speaking with her staff and defendants, “all this while lawyers and their clients waited to have their matters resolved and the public watched.”
The board’s report also states that Carr “routinely speaks in an undignified manner,” berating defendants who call her “ma’am,” and joking about accepting bribes and kick-backs from defendants. The report states Carr:
“. . .does this in a joking manner, but it is clear from the reaction of the defendants who come before her that they, and presumably others in the courtroom, do not always perceive it as a joke.”
The report details one case in 2019 during which Carr charged a defendant with contempt of court, alleging that the defendant called her a disrespectful term in the courtroom when the defendant had actually made the statements outside the courtroom, and they were relayed to the judge by the court staff. Carr then failed to recuse herself in the contempt case in spite of her involvement in the matter.
A disciplinary complaint was filed against Carr in September 2020, and at the urging of her counsel, she consulted a psychologist in May 2021.
At a disciplinary hearing in August, Carr told a panel that the effects of sleep apnea and menopause led to her “intemperate behavior on the bench.”
The board’s report states:
“It is difficult to perceive how ridiculing defendants, lawyers, and others in her court, likening herself to a character in a television series about a fictional Mississippi strip club while conducting the court’s business, waiving fines and costs because a defendant was born in the same month as her college friend, suggesting ‘hook-ups’ as a quid pro quo for lenient treatment, dressing in gym attire, and holding court behind a bench littered with the detritus of an adolescent’s bedroom, can be attributed to menopause or lack of sleep. Countless lawyers and judges have dealt with fatigue and menopause during their careers without violating the rules of professional conduct.”
Carr presented expert testimony and a report from a clinical psychologist after she was examined by him, who diagnosed her with “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”
The board took issue with the psychologist’s analysis, concluding there was a conflict of interest because he began serving as Carr’s treating psychotherapist, and because he admitted that he did not review all available material relating to Carr’s care.
The report notes that while Carr appears sincerely regretful of her misconduct, and she is taking steps to address her health issues, she does not escape sanction “simply because her improved conduct does not appear to post an imminent threat to the public interest.”
The board stated that it is recommending a two-year suspension from judicial office without pay for Carr because of her compliance and commitment to a treatment program. Without that, it said, an indefinite suspension would be warranted.
On Monday, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Associated issued a statement in support of the board’s report and recommendation. It reads, in part:
“We support the Board’s recommendation which calls for accountability for the misconduct and will await the final determination by the Supreme Court of Ohio which represents the final step in the disciplinary process.”
In court on Tuesday, Froning argued that the Board of Professional Conduct didn’t apply the legal standard required in determining if Judge Carr’s menopause and sleep apnea contributed to cause her misconduct. The board instead used “attribution” or “causal link.” It was an argument heavy on hair splitting regarding word definitions. Froning, explaining the difference to the justices when one asked, said:
“Causation defined is ‘expresses or implies a cause.’ ”
“It’s a cause-and-effect relationship, whereas a contribution — contribute is defined as tending to bring a result. . . .in its 58-page report, the panel discusses attribute, discusses a causal link, but does not utilize the word contribution in its analysis.”
After the fourth question trying to figure out why contribution isn’t a subset of causation, the justices seemed frustrated. Patrick Fischer, one of the court justices, asked:
“How did this contribution cause five people to spend 28 days in jail?”
“The issue here is that her treaters were mis— essentially mistreating the conditions, causing there to be counteracting issues. So when it comes to sleep apnea, she was unable to get the sleep necessary. When it comes to the menopause, she was dealing with issues wherein she wasn’t able to function to 100 percent.”
Fischer didn’t seem to buy it. He asked:
“How does sleep apnea or menopause contribute to lying?”
“Well, it affects her . . . mood; it affects her ability to think. Clearly, it affected numerous areas of her life . . . Everyone reacts differently. One of the arguments of the panel and the board is that thousands of lawyers have suffered from sleep apnea and/or menopause and not engaged in misconduct. I would agree with that. The issue is that everyone reacts differently if we think about.”
Fischer countered that Carr was already being treated at that point, so she misled her lawyer, her character witnesses and her therapists to make her misconduct appear less serious. These lies, to the lawyer and therapist, demonstrated disturbing dishonesty that pervades response behavior in this case, he added while reading from the board’s report.
“Connect, please, the sleep apnea or menopause to those actions.”
The Supreme Court of Ohio will make the final determination in Carr’s disciplinary process.
Michigan judge exposed for berating 72-year-old cancer patient over ‘shameful’ condition of yard
January 24, 2022
HAMTRAMCK, MI – An incident that happened in a Michigan courtroom on Jan. 10 is a microcosm of the lack of civility that currently occupies our American conversation.
On that day, Burhan Chowdhury, 72, made a Zoom appearance in court after receiving a citation last May for not keeping up his yard.
The judge, Alexis G. Krot went off on Chowdhury, as if he had murdered someone, berating him for the condition of his yard. Now Krot is apologizing for her outburst. Krot said during the court appearance:
“You should be ashamed of yourself. Have you seen that photo? That is shameful!”
Continuing to browbeat Chowdhury, Krot said:
“If I could give you jail time on this, I would. This is totally inappropriate!”
That type of unhinged behavior would be bad enough, but there’s more to the story—Chowdhury suffers from lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes and weakens the body significantly, his son Shibbir told CNN.
Shibbir appeared with his father during the Zoom hearing because the elder doesn’t speak a great deal of English, he said.
Video of Krot’s act went viral, and many who saw it on social media were livid about how she treated the man afflicted with cancer. That led Krot to apologize in a letter posted to the court’s website on Tuesday. Krot said:
“I apologize to the person who appeared before me and to our entire community for having failed to meet the high standards we expect of our judicial officers and that I expect of myself.
“When someone appears before me and has made a mistake, I expect them to own up to it. I expect nothing less of myself.”
Krot also noted that she had self-reported the incident to the Judicial Tenure Commission.
“I had no legal duty to report myself to the Commission, but I did so because, like apologizing to the community, it was the right thing to do. I will continue to hold myself to the standards I set for others.”
Shibbir told CNN that prior to his father’s cancer diagnosis three years ago, he along with his parents would work on the yard together. While Shibbir was overseas in Bangladesh, his mother had an accident, injuring her back, which left nobody to do the yard work while he was out of the country.
Upon his return to the U.S., Shibbir cleaned up the yard himself. He said:
“My father was trying to explain that he was sick and he had cancer, but [he was] feeling shame. We didn’t expect she could tell us like this. Maybe she could have told us more respectfully or maybe like, normally how people speak.”
Although he wasn’t sure, Shibbir said he believes a neighbor had filed a complaint with the city.
He said if that in fact is what happened, he wishes the neighbor had reached out and spoken to him about the yard before involving the authorities.
Seizing on the incident, Michigan State Rep. Abraham Aiyash spoke out about it at a city council meeting last week.
He said the incident reminded him of an incident when he went to court with his parents who spoke English as a second language, and who were likely mistreated the same as Chowdhury was.
“Remorse is seen through deed, and that’s what we want to see. Will there be a change in action? Will there by a change in conduct moving forward?”
Aiyash has spoken to the Chowdhury family, and is in the process of putting together a formal complaint to the Tenure Commission, an independent state agency which investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and/or incapacity, as well as recommending discipline of judicial officials to the Michigan Supreme Court. The state rep said:
“We would expect any of our elected officials in Hamtramck to treat people with dignity and respect and in the event that they’re not, we will hold them accountable.
“What you saw over the last week and a half that surfaced from, particularly, Hamtramck community members is a reaction to pain.
“These are people who have felt and seen and experienced mistreatment and are sort of voicing their outrage from their own personal experience.
“So many of us feel sympathy for Mr. Chowdhury, but for a lot of people, this just brings back flashbacks to their own experience and this moment opened up the eyes of a lot of folks who said enough is enough.”
The mayor of Hamtramck, Amer Ghalib also spoke out about the incident about a week after the city council meeting, telling the community it was “inhumane to stay silent in this case.”
“My personal opinion is the treatment that Mr. Chowdhury received was inappropriate, unacceptable, and unbecoming of the court. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. In this country no one should be afraid of elected officials.”
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