Questions are being raised about the relationship between an Akron Municipal Court judge and a public defender.
The situation came to light on February 5th at 1:45am, when a Copley police officer spotted a car with the lights on and the engine running, in the parking lot of a strip mall off of I-77.
According to the police report, inside the car, were Judge Joy Malek Oldfield, and 30-year-old Catherine Loya, a public defender assigned to Judge Oldfield’s courtroom.
Copley Police Chief Michael Mier said, “as he approached, he saw two individuals in the back seat of the vehicle, he saw some activity taking place and when these individuals realized that he was there, they moved from the back seat into the front seat very quickly and he did see some clothing being put back into place.”
The report indicates that Judge Oldfield told Officer Thomas Ballinger that she had been drinking and that Catherine Loya was driving because the judge was unable to. Loya was cited for physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.
Chief Mier said the officer did not mention the judge’s name in his initial report out of sensitivity.
“The judge was in the car. However, the judge was not accused of wrongdoing and was not charged criminally”, said Mier, “so he knew her name might be easily recognized on the main incident report.”
However, in the officer’s supplemental report, he did name the judge, and included a description of what he saw in the back seat as he approached the car.
The relationship between Judge Oldfield, a 36-year-old married mother of two, and Catherine Loya, is raising questions about fairness, according to the Akron City Prosecutor.
Doug Powley told Fox 8, “My concern is the public perception that might be undue influence or some preference given in the courtroom because of relationships between the judge and attorneys practicing in the court.”
But according to published reports, Judge Oldfield’s attorney is questioning the officer’s version of events.
In response, Chief Mier is standing behind the officer and his report.
“I believe that based on my discussions with Officer Ballinger that his police report is an accurate reflection of what took place that day. Secondly, he’s a very honorable person,” said Mier.
We attempted to speak to Judge Oldfield, but she declined our invitation and our attempts to reach Catherine Loya were unsuccessful.
On Tuesday, the Summit County Public Defender’s Office told the prosecutor that Loya has now been removed from Judge Oldfield’s courtroom and re-assigned.