ELYRIA — The Lorain County Common Pleas judges collectively have hired a Cleveland-based law firm to represent them in the battle over the location of the county’s Adult Probation Department.
The judges also have issued a court order demanding the commissioners and county auditor cover the firm’s $50,000 retainer and any subsequent lawyer fees.
The order called the $50,000 retainer reasonable considering the complexity of the issue.
“The evergreen deposit is reasonable and necessary for counsel to advocate for the judges in a complex dispute that continues to escalate,” the court order said. “It is expected that the costs to make this facility safe, secure and functional will cost many, many thousands of dollars.”
The order, handed down Tuesday and signed by all six county Common Pleas judges, said the Chandra Law Firm and lead attorney Subodh Chandra have been hired because the judges need “independent, unconflicted legal representation.’’
“Despite the court’s best efforts to resolve this matter in a civil and amicable fashion, the board (of commissioners), through the Lorain County Prosecutor, continues to obstruct and hinder the court’s attempts. This court can no longer tolerate such conduct and has no choice but to enter the following order,” the order said.
The issue continues to be where the Probation Department should be housed.
Currently, it is located in the old Lorain County Courthouse, but the building needs extensive work. After a tour of the building earlier this month, the judges said they saw black mold, asbestos, a broken elevator and numerous other problems in the more than century-old building.
The judges have long pushed the commissioners to move from the decaying building to the vacant fifth floor of the Lorain County Justice Center. Several county officials have balked at the price tag of preparing the fifth floor, estimated to cost $2.4 million to $2.8 million.
They also have questioned the judges’ view on what is wrong with the old courthouse.
The hiring of the attorney by the judges was not unanticipated, said County Administrator Jim Cordes.
“If the judges feel they need outside counsel because there is a conflict of interest in the prosecutor’s office, they have the right to do that and issue a court order for payment,” he said.
Cordes said the situation likely will not be resolved any time soon.