Ohio’s High Court Doles Out Common Sense to Common Pleas

When I was much younger I would do something stupid in front of my Dad and he would say, “Son, common sense is a virtue.” I took those words to heart and I try to apply common sense at all times and, to my credit, my failure rate has been reduced considerably through the years.

The Ohio Supreme Court applied some common sense to a case involving a lower court, the Licking County Municipal Court, and the Court of Commons Pleas, when it released a Slip Opinion this week that upheld a part of that state’s constitution that reads “all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties”.

Woody Fox, owner of Woody’s Bail Bonds of Columbus, Ohio, is hailed as a hero today by me and every bail agent in The Buckeye State and beyond. It was Woody Fox who took issue with the Clerk of Licking County Municipal Court who refused to accept a surety bond whenever the court had set a 10% cash bond option. You heard me correctly: a judge would set bail with a 10% cash option and then the clerk would refuse to take a bail bond that would secure the full amount of bail, opting instead to take security equal to only 10% of the bail amount. There’s that common sense thing I was talking about.

The practice of refusing bail bonds in lieu of 10% cash has become quite popular among many court clerks throughout the State of Ohio. Slips Opinion No. 2014Ohio2926 will be unwelcome news to clerks like the ones involved in this case, who have decided the lure of cash is more important than security sufficient to guarantee a defendant appears in court. I’m told that some judges, after getting word of this Slip Opinion, were under the impression that the Slip Opinion actually abolished the ten percent option. Oh, if only that were the case.

The insatiable desire for cash by some court clerks and judges reminds me of the scene at the end of that Eastwood flick, Kelly’s Heroes, where the soldiers were mesmerized by the shiny bars of gold with no concern for the consequences of their actions; these clerks could be jeopardizing the safety of Ohio’s citizens. 

Slip Opinion No. 2014Ohio2926 is a wakeup call to those clerks and judges who have developed a cynical view of the criminal justice system and have given up on the notion criminals should be required to appear in court to answer to the charges against them.

Granting offenders a 90% discount on their bail even when a 100% guaranteed bail bond is offered has been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court and stupid by me.

Not everyone was born with common sense, something else my Dad would always say. Thank you, Woody Fox, for being a warrior in defense of your profession and daring to fight for the cause of common sense.