Public defender seeks order ending mandatory anger management classes

Douglas M. Kafury

A pre-trial bond order is pitting a municipal court judge and the Portage County Public Defenders Office against one another in an Ohio Court of Appeals.

Dennis D. Lager of the Portage County Public Defenders Office is seeking a writ of prohibition to stop Portage County Municipal Court Judge John Plough from ordering mandatory “anger management” classes as a condition for bond in domestic violence cases. Lager filed the writ of prohibition Feb. 14 with the 11th District Court of Appeals.

According to court records, between the dates of Dec. 19, 2005, and Feb. 6, Lager said Plough had ordered 13 defendants in domestic violence cases to attend “anger management.”

In one of the cases exhibited in Lager’s complaint, a transcript from municipal court shows Plough gave a defendant a choice between a 10 percent $25,000 bond with the completion of the 24-week “anger management” class or a $50,000 cash bond.

Lager states the requirement to take these classes may imply guilt on the part of the defendant.

Plough said he feels otherwise.

“I am not punishing people or convicting them before trial,” Plough said. “I don’t think it’s a punishment to go to a class.”

Plough said the reason for the “anger management” class condition of the bond is for the protection of the public.

“Statistics have shown when people get treatment as soon as possible, it is much more beneficial than after the case is over,” Plough said.

Denise Smith, Portage County chief assistant prosecuting attorney, is representing Plough in the case. She filed a motion to dismiss the case on the premise that Lager does not have legal standing to bring the litigation because he is not directly injured or benefited by the outcome of the case.

Smith also said the general interest is not sufficient in this case.

Lager has countered by opposing the dismissal. The response, which was filed by Lager’s assistant, Alex Treece, cited the 2002 Ohio State Supreme Court Case AFL-CIO v. Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, which dealt with unwarranted drug and alcohol testing for injured workers.

In that decision the court referred back to the 1999 Ohio State Supreme Court Case Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers v. Sheward, which stated the petitioner “need not show any legal or special individual interest in the result.”

Since the AFL-CIO v. Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation case dealt with protection against unlawful searches, which is contained in Bill of Rights, it relates to the point being raised in this case. The right to just and fair bail, which is contained in the Eighth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, has a great deal of public concern.

The opposition for the motion to dismiss is pending, and if the court does not dismiss the case, Lager will seek a summary judgment.

Contact public affairs reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected].