I would like to thank everyone who supported the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association in its efforts to be included as a voting member of the Justice Center Steering Committee. Despite clear support from our members and the clients that we serve, the ultimate result is that the future of the Justice Center will be decided by 12 individuals without any meaningful input from the 5,000+ members of the CMBA, our affiliate organizations, and the clients that we serve. The current composition of the Committee includes city and county elected officials as well as government-appointed court officials. While we continue to recognize the value of each existing decision maker, it is concerning that a legal project as important as this will proceed without the vast experience and input of the greater northeast Ohio legal community.
September 17, 2019
During the public comment portion of the most recent Steering Committee meeting, CMBA CEO Becky McMahon likened this project — without input from the private bar — to the building of a hospital without considering the needs of all doctors and varied disciplines.
On September 17, 2019, we welcomed Administrative and Presiding Judge John J. Russo’s proposal which would have allowed the CMBA to be considered for inclusion on the Committee. Just prior to the official vote, however, the Committee was asked whether the existing MOU should be amended to allow for such consideration. That first question was brought to a vote. All of the Committee members who were polled voted in favor of the amendment except for Cuyahoga County Councilman Michael Gallagher. Councilman Gallagher’s opposition ensured that this process would advance without all necessary voices participating in a meaningful, appropriate and warranted manner. Frankly, it should not have even reached this point as the leaders of the Steering Committee should have included the private bar when originally crafting the Committee membership. We commend the public servants who now sit on the Committee and give their time to improving our system of justice. Unfortunately, the exclusion of the private bar by Councilman Gallagher will always leave questions as to whether true transparency is at the core of this process.
The CMBA leadership has examined how we can now best serve our membership and the greater community. It is believed that by assuming the role of an outside watchdog, we will be best positioned to present questions and ideas that may not be otherwise considered. In this capacity, the CMBA will regularly report back to our members and clients as to the state of this project. This, in conjunction with the time and care that the 12 existing members will dedicate to this massive project, will hopefully result in an inclusive system of justice that is fair for all.
September 18, 2019 (24 hours later)
In stark contrast to what was seen only one day earlier, on behalf of the CMBA, I had the privilege of witnessing an incredibly important project evolve into action that will help generations of families in our community.
The overarching theme of my presidency, “The Power of One,” is illustrated by the effort of Legal Aid Society Attorney Hazel Remesch. As Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley explains in his article (published in this issue on page 26), Hazel brought an idea into reality. She and Legal Aid Attorney Abigail Staudt led the Housing Justice Alliance, an initiative to provide low-income tenants with children access to free legal representation during eviction proceedings. This effort, which evolved from a fellowship through the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s Innovation Mission and was led by The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, evolved into a collaboration by representatives from Cleveland City Council, county representatives, Cleveland Municipal Housing Court, community members, United Way of Greater Cleveland and private bar associations. In fewer than two years from inception, Cleveland residents will now benefit from a project that should serve as an example of how great work can be accomplished through dedication and collaboration.
Suffice it to say that it was quite a busy 24 hours for the CMBA. One project left us disappointed, while the other brought a renewed energy and optimism. As the recognized voice for the legal community, we are committed to staying engaged in both efforts, albeit from different positions. I know that every member of the CMBA loves the law and desires to better our profession for the next generation. In that light, and on behalf of the bar leadership, I pledge to you that we will continue to fight for our seat at all tables where your voice must be heard
Ian Friedman is a partner at Friedman & Nemecek, L.L.C., which is a Cleveland-based criminal defense law firm. He is the current President of the CMBA. He has been a CMBA member since 2002. He can be reached at (216) 928-7700 or email@example.com.