LIMA — As a future attorney in her home country of Iceland, Kolfinna Tomasdottir jumped at the chance to be part of an exchange program in the United States that shows her the justice system up close.
“I really like being here. I actually feel like I’m in a movie because this is so different from Iceland and it’s really cool,” Tomasdottir said.
In Iceland there is not a jury system. The determination of innocence or guilt is up to a judge, she said.
“This is not the same system we have in Iceland so it’s really nice to compare it,” Tomasdottir said.
Tomasdottir was one of 12 students in the United States for 12 days as part of an exchange program through Ohio Northern University’s law school. The law school also sends students to Iceland, said Jeris Kendall, the secretary for the International Icelandic Exchange Program at Ohio Northern.
“We are visiting the municipal court so the Iceland students can have a better feel of what our legal system is. They have a much different legal system in Iceland,” Kendall said.
Students toured Lima Municipal Court and spoke with Judge Tammie Hursh and Prosecutor Rick Eddy.
Eddy told the students each courtroom handles 100 or more cases a week.
“We’re busy but we still have time to go through every case,” Eddy said.
The court has many misdemeanor cases and felony cases start at the court but get transferred to the common pleas court. The cases Eddy sees a lot of are drunken driving, theft, assault and driving under suspension, he said.
Judge Hursh compared the court to the emergency room at a hospital. She said a lot happens and they have to sort it out fast.
“This is what happens next after the police take action,” Hursh said.
She told the group trials are rare but she gets a handful each year. Defendants wanting to challenge a drunken driving arrest are the most popular for trial followed by assault and domestic violence.
Hursh said her biggest goal is trying to help people who often are alcoholics or have drug addictions. She would rather get them help to turn their lives around rather than throw them in jail.
“We want to help people so they stop using and be sober,” Hursh said. “We do a lot of good here.”
Tomasdottir said drunken driving is a crime the courts in Iceland see.
“We have those issues, as well. I think they are everywhere in the world,” she said.
The students also toured the Lima Police Department and planned to travel to Columbus today to see the Ohio Supreme Court.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.