Login | August 11, 2022

Akron Bar program helps with license reinstatement process

Legal News Reporter

Published: August 5, 2022

Summit County drivers looking to get their licenses reinstated are being encouraged to take advantage of a new time-saving option now available to them at Akron, Barberton and Stow municipal courts.
Unveiled in May by members of the Akron Bar Association Access to Justice Committee, the new program seeks to simplify and speed up the license reinstatement process by eliminating the need for individuals with outstanding fines in multiple jurisdictions to meet with the judge or magistrate in each of the courts, said Akron Municipal Court Presiding/Administrative Judge Ron Cable, who serves as co-chair of the Access to Justice Committee.
Under the new initiative, drivers can now work out a repayment plan at one of the three municipal courts and use that documentation to create an installment agreement in the other jurisdiction (or jurisdictions) where they owe fines by making a $50 down payment, and get all their license forfeitures lifted.
As Judge Ron Cable explains, the goal is to improve motorist safety.
“We all can agree that being a smart, safe and insured driver is the only way to operate a vehicle,” said Judge Cable. “If an individual does not have a valid license, the individual cannot get car insurance, making this person a liability for lawful drivers.”
Motorists who come to Akron Municipal Court can also take advantage of the opportunity to meet with the new traffic safety officer to discuss any problems they’re having related to their licenses, Judge Cable said.
While Judge Cable played a key role in the program’s creation, it was his co-chair on the Access to Justice Committee, Barberton Presiding/Administrative Judge Todd McKenney who came up with the idea for the initiative.
“We want to do what we can to encourage drivers who want to get their licenses back to do just that,” said Judge McKenney. “When residents appear before me, I discuss the new program with them and let them know what they have to do.
“In Barberton, we will let motorists work out a repayment plan that costs as little as $25 a month,” said Judge McKenney.
At Akron and Barberton municipal courts, motorists who’ve secured documentation from one court can bring their paperwork directly to the clerk of courts office.
But at Stow Municipal Court, Chief Magistrate John Clark handles all traffic violations, including working out repayment plans.
“The bailiff brings the documentation to me and the motorist and I hammer out the details of payment and what they need to do to get valid,” said Clark, a member of the Akron Bar Association Access to Justice Committee.
“Unless my docket is extremely busy, I inform people about the new program and their reinstatement requirements when they are arraigned,” Clark said. “If I can’t do it at arraignment, I take their information and send them the details later through email.
“Having a valid driver’s license is even more important now as we come out of the pandemic as there are many job opportunities available, but most require a valid license for the applicant to get to work,” said Clark.
Other community agencies, including the Legal Defender Office and the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office are also partnering with the courts to help make the initiative a success.
As vice chair of the Akron Bar Association Access to Justice Committee, Tania Nemer, community outreach prosecutor at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, was part of the initial discussions that led to the creation of the program.
“On the prosecutor’s end, when an individual is not paying child support, we can suspend their driver’s license,” said Nemer. “However with this new collaboration, we can offer another avenue to provide comprehensive services to individuals who want to drive legally and want to help their families.
“Our goal was to help drivers break the vicious cycle of driving with a suspended license and getting additional fines that make it even harder to clear up the problem,” said Nemer.
“A valid driver’s license can open a whole new world for struggling parents,” Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh stated in a press release. “Having the independence to seek employment, spend time with children or access community resources are just a few of the benefits for parents who can drive legally.
“Collaborating with the three municipal courts will increase our ability to offer programs and resources to assist clients who are trying to have their license reinstated by Summit County CSEA (Child Support Enforcement Agency).”
Although the program is still new, Judge McKenney said it’s already producing positive results.
“By working together, the municipal courts in Summit County are removing the barrier to a fundamental need--to have a driver’s license to get to work,” said Judge McKenney. “We are asking other courts to join us in this effort.”