A TESTY EXCHANGE between a judge and City Commissioner Stephanie Singer's lawyer led to a drawn-out reconsideration hearing yesterday on nomination petitions that would keep her on the Democratic primary ballot.
Common Pleas Judge Joel Johnson ruled last week that Singer fell four names short of the required 1,000 signatures to be on the May 19 election ballot. Singer's counsel, Chuck Goodwin, saw it differently.
In a large ceremonial courtroom at Family Court normally used for baby adoptions, about a half-dozen people sat through yesterday's continuation of the longest of the recent nomination-petition challenge cases.
"This case went five or six times longer than the other cases," Johnson said.
Goodwin said he did not have time during the initial hearings to bring in 16 residents who signed affidavits confirming their signatures after Johnson's original decision.
Goodwin complained that the first round of hearings were "an enormous challenge," with more than 1,000 names of the roughly 1,500 originally submitted on Singer's petitions called into question. Richard Hoy, the lawyer for three voters challenging the first-term commissioner's petitions, disagreed.
"I ask your honor to deny this motion to bring these 16 people in," Hoy argued. "They had every opportunity [during the original hearings]."
Goodwin said his ability to bring the residents in to testify had been hampered by an "astounding number of objections," from Hoy, many of which he described as "silly." Johnson took exception to that comment and pressed Goodwin on each of his arguments.
"I never denied you the right to bring any witnesses," Johnson said. "If you give me an example . . . of someone who I may have forgotten or not allowed to testify, I would be happy to listen."
Goodwin backed off the insinuation that Johnson denied him and shifted focus to the length of the earlier hearings, particularly the last day, which stretched into the wee hours of the morning.
"It was overwhelming at the start. It was crushing by Thursday," Goodwin said. Of one of the residents, he said, "He and his wife were in bed in their pajamas and got dressed to come down."
Goodwin also questioned the preparedness of Hoy's handwriting expert.
"We have the right . . . to find out what he did to prepare," Goodwin said, angling to have several signatures the expert struck reinstated.
The judge again referenced the original hearings: "You had the right to impeach him," he said. "You did not do that."
Johnson will allow Goodwin to question the expert on Tuesday but warned that the plan could backfire. If the expert is disqualified, some of Singer's approved signatures could be stricken.
After the hearing, Goodwin said he understood the risk but felt it would be a "net gain" in legitimate names.