April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Judge decries lack of support

Wants officials to reconsider family court plan

ELYRIA — Domestic Relations Judge David Basinski questioned Thursday whether politics prompted the county commissioners to yank their support for merging the county’s Probate and Domestic Relations courts into a single Family Court last week.

“I don’t know if there’s somebody out there who wants this job in Probate Court,” Basinski said, adding that such as motivation would be “selfish.”

After the meeting, Commis-sioner Ted Kalo said he has discussed keeping a separate Probate Court with his friend, attorney James Walther, who is weighing a run for the post and favors keeping Probate Court.

Walther didn’t deny discussing the subject with Kalo, but added that he doubts he has enough influence to stop the plan.

“I’m a lawyer and assistant city prosecutor and law director for the city of Lorain,” he said. “The thought that I’m that powerful, the all-powerful Oz, is ridiculous.”

Kalo said he did not recall whether he discussed keeping Probate Court with Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski, who said Thursday he’s also interested in running for the Probate job.

Health problems prevented Basinski from attending last week’s meeting, when commissioners voted 2-to-1 to withdraw their support for the plan, but he urged them to reconsider their decision Thursday.

Basinski said current Probate Judge Frank Horvath handles about 2,200 cases a year and each of the three current Domestic Relations judges handles 4,400 cases per year. Splitting the workload between four Family Court judges would give each judge about 3,800 cases a year, he said.

During the debate, Commissioner Lori Kokoski — who voted against pulling the county’s support for the plan last week — said Basinski’s arguments convinced her even more that Family Court is needed to divvy up the work.

Kokoski said it was obvious she was left out of “back room” discussions about the Family Court that took place between County Administrator James Cordes, Kalo and Commissioner Betty Blair, who was absent Thursday.

Basinski said he was upset that commissioners did not wait for his input before rescinding their support for creating the Family Court.
State representatives Joseph Koziura, D-Lorain, Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, and Matt Barrett, D-Amherst, along with state Sen. Sue Morano, D-Lorain, plan to push their fellow legislatures to rescind the state law that will create the Family Court in 2009 after Horvath, who opposes merging the courts, retires.

Kalo told Basinski he made the decision based on budgetary concerns, saying the change would cost $750,000 in additional staffing. But Basinski said judges already share staff and would be willing to work to keep costs as low as possible.

Kalo also said he would support a fourth Domestic Relations judgeship if county residents vote in November to approve a 0.25 percentage point sales tax increase that will bring in about $7.4 million annually.

Basinski said it would be more cost-effective to have four Family Court judges rather than four Domestic Relations judges and a Probate judge.

Kokoski said she would raise the issue again next week to see if she could get Blair to support a second vote to keep the Family Court plan alive.

Kalo said he did not discuss the matter with Terry Butler, Basinski’s magistrate or with former Domestic Relations Judge Paulette Lilly who also are reportedly considering a run for the judgeship. Neither Lilly nor Butler could be reached for comment, but Basinski said Butler would not run solely to be a Probate judge.

Contact Cindy Leise at 653-6250 or cleise@chroniclet.com.