Reality Check: court battles

The vote on Issue 64, whatever its outcome, will not mean Lakewood has to go to court. But one side in the debate over 64 and Lakewood Hospital has shown a consistent preference for the courtroom.

In 2015, Lakewood residents concerned by mismanagement of our publicly owned hospital called on city and hospital officials to enforce the terms of its lease to the Cleveland Clinic. Thousands of citizens supported the call for officials to defend Lakewood’s rights throughout the lease’s remaining decade. Local officials declined even to attempt doing so. Citizens then reluctantly suggested that they would seek judicial enforcement of our rights if necessary—but delayed the final step of a court filing for several more weeks in hope that City Hall would reconsider.

Since then, citizen plaintiffs have made every effort to minimize the burden on the courts and taxpaying public. Five residents represent thousands of other Lakewoodites, in order to avoid the avalanche of costly paperwork which would have accompanied a larger official number of plaintiffs. In December, reported the judge advising an out-of-court resolution:

“I’m of the opinion that some meaningful mediation would be helpful here,” [Judge John] O’Donnell told the attorneys. “I’m of that opinion, but I can’t force it.” O’Donnell said if the parties agreed, he or another judge could mediate or the parties could hire an outside mediator.

City and hospital officials declined to explore this option. Citizens’ legal counsel, by contrast, “said he would be open to mediation.” In his exact words, “We’re always willing to talk and try to resolve matters.”

That’s worth keeping in mind, whenever someone tries to claim that Issue 64’s opponents want to keep the city tied up in court.