A campaign letter from Brian Taubman

Hello there. Thank you for visiting this site. If you’re here then you likely share my passion for Lakewood. It is this passion that has led me to run for judge in 2015. Simply put: It’s time for a new look at how we rehabilitate Lakewood’s troubled citizens and its reputation.

This November, I’m honored to be on the ballot to be Lakewood Municipal Court Judge. This role is not just a title to me, it’s how I want to give my life back to the city I love. Over the last few years, I’ve realized Lakewood, the city where I chose to buy a home and build a life, had a court system that was behind the times, refusing to adapt with the population.

Lakewood Municipal Court has become stagnant. Each case is a number to be processed and pushed through. This is the case in any court room where an incumbent judge runs unopposed after a career in the prosecutor ranks. The daily outlook becomes about dealing out punishment and appearing hard on crime, without understanding individual cases.

But I am a criminal defense attorney. I understand that the law is important to our safety. I also understand that it can be applied incorrectly or too harshly, leaving in its wake non-violent offenders who lose their ability to rehabilitate.

I plan to apply the law fairly and in a way that improves the lives of Lakewood citizens. I will not use this position to lecture people or talk down to them. As Judge, I won’t sit on pulpit, exacting justice without hearing, understanding and having compassion for the people in front of me. I will protect our city by ensuring proper punishments are given out for violent crime, hate crime and animal cruelty. I will also protect it by ensuring the first-time drug cases are heard fairly to keep one bad decision from turning our citizens into career criminals.

Correcting first-time offenders

I want to step up and put a greater emphasis on helping non-violent first-time drug offenders so they don’t become a drug overdose number or find themselves as career criminals.

My ultimate goal is to implement a drug court program to help first-time offenders avoid felonies on their records and get them the treatment they deserve. Currently, Lakewood doesn’t offer this program.

As I was preparing this letter, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner released a report that revealed Lakewood has been hit hard by heroin, leading the Cleveland-area suburbs in heroin deaths with 51 in 2013. In Cuyahoga County in that same year, heroin deaths exceeded deaths by homicides and motor vehicles.

Once implemented, a drug program will lower death rates related to drug overdoses, increase the number of rehabilitated drug users and decrease the burden on tax payers who are billed for non-violent drug offenders when they are incarcerated for extended periods of time.

Giving first-time offenders more opportunities to get clean reduces the burden on the system while reducing the offender’s chance of relapse. I am making it my mission to implement a drug court program similar to the one being run in Cleveland.
This program may be offered to a felony offender charged with a fourth- or fifth-degree-level possession of a controlled substance who has only one non-violent felony conviction and is chemically-dependent. Also, this program will be used for offenders who are typically charged with misdemeanor drug offenses of the first or second degree or post-conviction offenders were people convicted of a first or second degree misdemeanor offense that is directly related to substance use; or wherein the offender has prior drug related convictions.

These are not violent criminals; these are people who have lost their way and can either be brought back or sent down a path to a criminal career.

In a drug court program, these defendants are required to enter a plea of “guilty” to a first-degree misdemeanor. The sentence is held in abeyance pending successful completion of the program. Upon successful completion of Drug Court and payment of a supervision fee, a participant’s guilty plea is vacated, the charge(s) dismissed and the case sealed or expunged. If they fail to complete the program, these defendants serve out their sentence.

More than 1,100 people have successfully completed the Greater Cleveland Drug Court Program, which benefits not just the individuals involved, but also the community in which they live and all taxpayers.

A program like this would have a great impact in Lakewood and it is how we can reduce overdoses caused by drug epidemics like heroin. I would make implementing this program and receiving Specialized Docket Certification from the Supreme Court of Ohio one of my primary goals if elected.

There’s no guarantee this program will get adopted immediately, but I will work tirelessly to help people get the treatment they deserve so they don’t become a statistic or a burden on the tax-paying citizen.

More inclusive diversionary program

In addition to a drug court, Lakewood needs a more inclusive diversionary program. This will curtail recidivism while tackling the underlining problem which led this person to commit their crimes.

In an article in the Lakewood Observer, Judge Carroll wrote that “No one wants to see a teenager make a mistake that stays with them t
he rest of their life. To avoid undue harsh consequences, the Lakewood Court and Law Department established a diversion program for marijuana and underage alcohol offenses.”

Adults make mistakes as well. Does a 19-year-old who makes a mistake deserve to have it stay with them the rest of their life?

The purpose of this diversionary program will be to educate first-time, non-violent misdemeanor crime offenders on what got them into trouble and how to stay out of it.

The idea is to prevent a blemish on their record from hindering future employment or from getting accepted into college. If the individual has a drug addiction that led to them committing the crime, we will address this in drug court. If the person does’t have a GED, we will make sure they take classes and receive one. This is about helping struggling neighbors become productive members of our community.

Crimes that could fall under this new diversionary program would include underage consumption of alcohol, petty theft, disorderly conduct and vandalism. Violent crimes such as domestic violence, the death of another caused while operating a motor vehicle, charges related to animals, sex offenses, child endangering and assault will not qualify. Misdemeanors are often the gateway to a felony; the earlier we can address the underlining reasons why they committed their offenses, the better chances we have at helping.

Evaluating cases fairly

I believe the way Lakewood municipal court is currently operating has given up looking at individual situations and circumstances. I will look at each individual as an individual with no preconceived thought or opinions. I will not only look at both sides of things, but will find out what led this person here, and promise to help those who want help and need help. But while I will push troubled individuals to seek help, I will never forget that my first job is to protect the citizens of Lakewood.

What should be clear is that I know from my criminal defense work that every person deserves to have their day in court. That means they need to have a judge who considers their circumstances.

Coming from a veteran family, I understand that many veterans deal with trauma from their service to our country. I promise to assess and treat veterans with the respect they deserve and evaluate each case individually.

Mental Health Awareness

I’m also certified to handle mental health cases, and have first-hand experience helping those with mental diseases both in my professional and personal life. By recognizing and assessing those with mental health problems and giving them the treatment they need, you give them the opportunity to remain in the community and function as healthy, law-abiding citizens. You are also reducing the likelihood that they will re-enter the criminal justice system as offenders — or learn crime as a way of life while incarcerated.

No more hate

A person’s rights of safety and equality are fundamental. I believe that no one should ever be singled out, physically harmed or mentally intimidated, or be denied housing or basic needs due to their color, race, religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, not every person shares this opinion on equal rights.

If I’m elected, I promise to look into whether offender’s in the court room were motivated by prejudice based on race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, or religion before sentencing that person. A hate crime is an attack on our community and it will be taken very seriously.

Protecting people — and animals

I’ve grown up with animals all my life and frequent the Lakewood Dog park. I have two German Shepherds, one of which was a rescue, and believe that not only do people need to have their lives and rights protected, but so do animals. I will put my foot down on all animal-related crimes and will be the voice of those who can’t speak.

Increased efficiency and profitability of the Court

If I’m elected, I plan to make the Lakewood Court system more effective, cost-efficient and people friendly.

Criminal Cases
In criminal cases, arraignment will be available via email or fax, but only if the defendant waives a speedy trial. A pretrial or trial, depending on the specific charge, will be scheduled three to four weeks after arraignment. Discovery will be available before the pretrial with a discovery request, which will be available online being that open discovery is permitted throughout the State of Ohio. This will make an end to pretrial’s where nothing happens because of the lack discovery, freeing up court time and the prosecutors to properly work cases. Once a discovery request is sent, prosecutors will quickly and efficiently make sure the defense attorney has all available discovery. This whole process will make the first pretrial meaningful and hopefully reduce the need for 2nd and 3rd pretrials.

Also, if elected, I will not micromanage cases. I will allow the prosecutors to do their job and then, when presented with their opinions and after reviewing the facts and applicable law, I will make a decision that always balances the interests of City of Lakewood with the rights of the defendant in mind. I will not meet with every lawyer about every cases unless the facts warrant, or if the prosecutor or defense attorneys request a meeting. There needs to be checks and balances in the court system, and, in my opinion, the current system is lacking them.

If and when there is a second pretrial, the arresting police officer will do everything in his or her power, unless on duty or an emergency occurs, to be available in person or via phone. In this way we can have their input of what happened and not need to waste the court’s time, or the officer’s future time with requesting them be present at 3rd of 4th pretrial.

I will terminate the $500 retainer required by the current court to have a jury trial. The costs of a jury trial will be taxed as court costs or waived if the defendant can prove they are indigent to the court’s satisfaction. The current way the system is running impinged on individuals rights and makes a chilling effect on one’s constitutional rights.

How are cases without representation in criminal court handled and assigned in the majority of Municipal courts? They are usually assigned to lawyers who are friends of the court. This system is antiquated. I believe young lawyers should be given a chance to learn and make a living, and that use of a non-discriminatory list of qualified lawyers is necessary. Gone are the times that a lawyer who is a golf buddy with the judge should get priority; gone are times that a lawyer who supported his or her campaign should get priority over other qualified candidate. I believe in a fair and just system, and this starts with a fair and, adequately appointed counsel.

Finally, I will examine what appointed counsel is costing the city of Lakewood and see if it might be more effective to make contract with the public defender’s office for 2 days a week.

Landlord and Tenant Issues
Lakewood is a city full of duplexes and apartments, and naturally with this type of housing comes disputes between tenants and landlords. If elected, I will fairly weigh both sides. I understand that both sides have and are entitled to their rights being enforced fairly and justly. I won’t sit on the bench and lecture landlords; I will be there making sure the tenants live in accommodations that are safe and free of hazards and defects.

Our city’s best landlords are one of the many reasons Lakewood flourishes and the legal system should work with them to protect their rights while also understanding tenant needs. I promise to judge and weigh each landlord and tenant dispute fairly. I promise to hear both sides and read over all relevant documents before rendering a decision. The court should be used to help people and this applies to all people, whether they are landlords or tenants.

Civil cases
I not only bring extensive background in criminal cases with me, but I’ve been a plaintiff’s lawyer since I passed the bar. In my current practice, I’ve handled car accidents, medical malpractice cases, workers’ compensation, sexual harassment, wrongful terminations, slip and falls, product liability, personal liability defense, etc. I think having a Municipal Court judge that is well-versed in civil cases and civil procedure will greatly help the civil branch of Lakewood Municipal court be more effective and cost efficient.

Improving Lakewood’s image

Upon moving into Lakewood a few years ago, I was told to move west of Warren. After living in Lakewood for four-plus years and speaking to many concerned citizens, I believe that the preconceived notion areas of Lakewood, such as Birdtown and West 117th, are unsafe and undesirable is hurting Lakewood’s reputation and therefore negatively effecting our small business owners. I will put an emphasis on Cleveland crime crossing over into these areas, making sure that those who commit crimes in Lakewood are held responsible and those who may be thinking about committing crimes in Lakewood think twice.

Let’s talk

Thanks again for visiting this site. I look forward to earning your vote. I hope to see you at one of our campaign events so we can discuss how we can work together to improve upon the city we call home. If you’d like to reach out to me or my campaign team, please fill out our contact form. We read them all.