The Law Department of the City of Garfield Heights functions as the "law firm" representing elected and appointed officials and keeps watch over all municipal activity to ensure that all business of the City is conducted properly.
Duties of the Law Department
The duties of the Law Department can be broken up into two (2) separate categories--Civil and Criminal. Each of these categories will be briefly discussed below.
The Law Department drafts all legislation requested by the Mayor and members of City Council. Ordinances are laws that are adopted by a vote of City Council; once adopted, an ordinance is enforced by the Police Department or other departments within the City.
The Prosecutor and Assistant Prosecutor handle all criminal matters that occur in the City, working with law enforcement officers to ensure that justice is done. Criminal matters include: felony cases which are processed through the Garfield Heights Municipal Court for final disposition in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court and misdemeanor jury and non-jury trials handled in the City. In the past ten (10) years, due to major changes in the law, all cities have seen a tremendous increase in the number of misdemeanor cases, particularly driving while under the influence of alcohol and domestic violence. Thousands of cases pass through the Garfield Heights Municipal Court each year and all of them must be handled by the Law Department.
Patrick J. Cooney Appointed Garfield Heights Prosecutor
Former Prosecutor Je’Nine Nickerson Leaving for Juvenile Court Appointment
From left: Former City Prosecutor Je'Nine Nickerson,
Mayor Vic Collova, Prosecutor Patrick Cooney
and Law Director Tim Riley
Garfield Heights city council members confirmed the appointment of Attorney Patrick J. Cooney as police prosecutor/assistant law director Jan. 3. Cooney replaces Attorney Je’Nine Nickerson who resigned to accept an appointment as magistrate in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division. Council members also recognized Nickerson for her service to the Garfield Heights community.
Cooney is the principal partner of Patrick J. Cooney Co., L.P.A. of Cleveland and a former partner and associate of Morrison & Laino Co., L.P.A. He has both criminal and civil litigation experience. He is a graduate of Saint Ignatius High School, Miami University and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. The new city prosecutor is admitted to courts in the State of Ohio; the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio; and the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.
Cooney has served on the boards of Welcome House, Inc. and the WESCO Housing Corporation, both organizations that assist adults with disabilities; and was a member of the executive committee of The Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, and the finance committee of St. Patrick Catholic Church. He presently serves as president of the board of trustees for the West Haven Foundation, which is committed to raising resources and community awareness for individuals with disabilities.
Je’Nine Nickerson became a law clerk in Garfield Heights in 2003. She left the city to become a Cuyahoga County Prosecutor in 2006 and was rehired by Garfield Heights as an assistant city prosecutor in 2007. She was appointed city prosecutor in December, 2009.
Cooney’s appointment as Garfield Heights city prosecutor is effective Jan. 14.
FOR A LIST OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES, please click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I have a legal question, whom do I call?
If your question involves the City of Garfield Heights, its laws and ordinances or the Garfield Heights Municipal Court, one of the lawyers for the Law Department will be happy to assist you. If your question relates to a private problem or dispute, you should contact private counsel.
If my neighbor is causing problems, what can I do?
If one of the parties has broken the law, criminal charges may be warranted. If no infraction of the law occurred, the parties are advised to obtain independent counsel.
My spouse abuses me. What can I do?
First, and foremost, call the Police. The Law Department will follow up in appropriate cases with prosecution, which may also include a Temporary Protection Order.
Can I have my property rezoned?
Contact the Law Department or the Economic Development Department to start the process to have your property rezoned. The procedure may take from six (6) months to a year depending on your timing. Each zoning change must be voted on by the voters of Garfield Heights.
If I am injured on City property or a city street, what should I do?
Make a Police report or make a report to the individual in charge of the facility in which you were injured. Additionally, obtain (2) quotes that specify the amount of damages suffered. Your claim will be processed through the Law Department and with the City’s insurance carrier.
If I have a question about an ordinance, what should I do?
Call the Law Department, and someone will assist you in finding an answer to your question.
If I have a question about a traffic ticket or citation I receive, whom do I call?
You may call the Garfield Heights Police Department or ask the Judge to clarify your situation when you appear in the Garfield Heights Municipal Court.
If I witness a crime, whom do I call?
Call the Garfield Heights Police Department at once.
If I want to find out what legislation is coming up for a vote at the next council meeting, how do I check?
The agenda and proposed legislation for Council meetings are posted at several places in the City, as well as The Civic Center and the Garfield Heights Library.
If I want a copy of a City document, how do I obtain it?
Visit the Law Department or the City department from which you are requesting the records. Make sure you clearly identify what record you are seeking. All requests should be made during normal business hours. There is a charge for copying.
The easiest way to fight crime is for all residents to be the eyes and ears of the police force in your neighborhood.