December 21, 2014

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Lorain likely to need help to resolve housing case backlog

LORAIN — Handling thousands of housing code prosecutions will require additional help, Lorain Municipal Court Judge Mark Mihok said Tuesday.

Mihok said a part-time magistrate and part-time court clerk would likely need to be hired. Mihok said it was premature to say how much they will be paid.

In 2012, Lorain established the Nuisance Inspection Task Force, which does exterior inspections of homes to reduce blight. The court created a housing docket to handle the cases, but the number of disputed citations has created a backlog of cases to prosecute.

Law Director Pat Riley told City Council members Monday that there are at least 600 cases ready for prosecution and 3,000 new cases are expected to be prosecuted in the next six to 12 months.

However, Riley said the court is only meeting once per month to adjudicate housing cases and each docket can only handle 35 cases.

Riley said he has asked judges to increase their dockets from once per month to once per week, which would work out to about 140 monthly cases. However, Riley said that isn’t enough.

“It’s one thing to inspect, it’s another thing to effectuate the inspection,” he said. “The prospect of giving them notice today they are being prosecuted and then we don’t get them in the courts for 10 months, or eight months or six months, is just not going to work.”

Mihok said he and Judge Tom Elwell plan to meet Thursday with Riley and Mayor Chase Ritenauer to discuss the issue. Mihok said the courts, which handle some 18,000 cases annually, will take on the cases, “but it’s not going to be easy.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.