by Doug Brown
The courtroom conduct of Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes is a problem that needs addressing. So says the Supreme Court of Ohio's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline in a 49-page report, first obtained and made public by 19 Action News Reporter Paul Orlousky.
The document details years of abusive behavior by Stokes that drains the court's resources and has "negatively impacted every component of the criminal justice system that she has come into contact with" as a judge and says Stokes may be "suffering from mental illness that substantially impairs her ability to perform her duties as a judicial officer."
It lays out abuse-upon-abuse in the courtroom from Stokes, who's been a judge in the municipal court since 1995. The final section ("Request for Mental Health Evaluations") states the following (emphasis ours):
As alleged in the counts above, it is clear that for the past several years respondent:
a. Has been unable to efficiently run a courtroom;
b. Perceives problems where there are none;
c. Engages in unprofessional conduct, including needless shouting matches with prosecutors, defense counsel, court employees, and the public; and
d. Views comments/questions about her decisions or actions as a personal attach on her and the integrity of the court.
From a global perspective, respondent's behavior has negatively impacted every component of the criminal justice system that she has come into contact with as a judicial officer including prosecutors, public defenders, security bailiffs, personal bailiffs, court reporters, psychiatric clinic employees, probation officers, defendants, and the public — and has led to the adoption of several court-wide rules or department policy changes in order to accommodate respondent's unwarranted use of court resources and constantly changing expectations.
Despite these accommodations, respondent has been unable or unwilling to recognize that most, if not all, of the problems in her courtroom are the result of her own actions. Rather than accepting responsibility for her conduct and working towards a resolution, respondent persists in blaming others for the problems in her courtroom.
Based upon the above facts and allegations, relator believes the respondent may be suffering from mental illness that substantially impairs her ability to perform her duties as a judicial officer. In accordance with Gov. Bar R. V(7)(C), relator requests that the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline or the hearing panel assigned to this case order a psychiatric examination of respondent by one or more physicians designated by the Board or hearing panel.
Check out the full report for yourself:
Here's a profile of Angela Stokes on the the Cleveland Municipal Court website: "Judge Angela R. Stokes was born and raised in the greater Cleveland community and comes from a family of distinguished public servants. She is the daughter of retired U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes and Jay Stokes, and former educators Mildred and the late Rufus Foster. Judge Stokes is also the niece of the late Carl B. Stokes, former U.S. Ambassador, Mayor of Cleveland and Judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court."
Some of the issues in the report have been written about by the Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik in the past. From 2009:
Over Stokes' 14 years on the bench, she had changed bailiffs 25 times before. By comparison, the court's 12 other judges — whose tenures range from a few months to 27 years — changed bailiffs a combined seven times.... Other issues include:
-An excessive use of drug, alcohol and psychiatric tests for defendants.
-A slow-moving courtroom that keeps lawyers, police and witnesses waiting.
-Unsubstantiated complaints about court workers.
-Frequent requests for background histories on defendants — after she has already sentenced them.