Judge Joan Synenberg
has been striving to reform our Criminal Justice System for the past thirty years. Judge Joan began her work to reform the system as a social worker. While a social worker Judge Joan worked in the County Jail. It was that experience that taught her that there is a better alternative than sending non-violent offenders to prison. As a social worker Judge Joan saw up close the need for the Criminal Justice System to be reformed.
While working as a social worker and a bailiff for Judge Ann Dyke, Judge Joan attended John Marshall Law School. She opened her office her first day as a lawyer and became a Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer protecting individual rights and making the system accountable. Judge Joan looked beyond her client’s criminal offense and sought the reason her client resorted to committing a crime. Judge Joan was an excellent and effective Criminal Defense Lawyer for 16 years. She worked to get her client’s the assistance they needed so they would not have to encounter the Criminal Justice System again.
After fighting to reform the Criminal Justice System as a Defense Lawyer, Judge Joan took her reform efforts to the Cleveland Municipal Court Bench. Judge Joan served as a Judge in the Cleveland Municipal Court for two years. Judge Joan worked directly with Judge Larry Jones to bring reform to the Cleveland Court. Judge Joan was one of the first judges to hold Expungement forums throughout the community to educate former offenders of what they could do to become employable.
Judge Joan was mentored by Judge Larry Jones while serving on the Cleveland Municipal Court. Judge Larry Jones provided the leadership to implement a Drug Court in the City of Cleveland. Judge Jones set the standard that Judge Joan currently models to provide Defendants the opportunity to receive treatment instead of incarceration.
Currently Judge Joan serves as a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge. In addition to her regular responsibilities, Judge Joan has expanded her mission to reform the Criminal Justice System to Cuyahoga County. Judge Joan was a Mental Health Judge for five years before becoming the first and only Judge in the State of Ohio that has been certified to preside over the Recovery Court Docket.
Judge Joan is blessed to have a team of professionals of social workers, doctors, defense lawyers and prosecutors to examine each case individually to give defendants alternatives to being incarcerated. Judge Joan encourages defendants’ family members to be engaged in the process to help them to succeed. Judge Joan literally comes down from the Bench to connect with individuals and let them know she cares about them. Judge Joan’s Recovery Court meets every Wednesday afternoon on the 18th Floor of the Justice Center.