It has been said that a person has to have the right temperament to be a good judge.
I believe it takes a little more than the right temperament. In approaching 30 years in the litigation business, I have seen my share of judges; some outstanding, some poor and many in between. The 2014 election cycle is unique in that it has the most local judicial races ever. During my years in practice, I have seen the Summit County Court add four judges for a total of fourteen. Ten of the fourteen seats are up for election this year and each race is contested. This creates quite the opportunity for voters to shape the Summit County Court of Common Pleas.
Before we delve into the judicial races in front of us this election cycle let’s do a little background on what it takes to be a judge.
Qualifications to become a Judge: RC §1907.13
Must be a qualified elector;
Must be a resident of the county for which they are running;
Admitted into the practice of law in Ohio;
Practiced law in Ohio for at least 6 years preceding appointment;
Must have a petition to run for Judge;
Must have 50 valid signatures from registered voters for that county
(if running under a major political party) before filing petition; and
Maximum age of 70.
There are many ways to practice law in society today. Only a few involve court room experience. Many attorney’s practices never take them to the courthouse. As such an attorney can become a judge without any real courtroom experience.
There are two ways to become a judge; one is to outright run for the seat in the political process and be elected by the voters, the second is to be appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy. If appointed, you must then run to keep the seat in the next general election cycle. Many of the judges serving in our area were originally appointed to their seat by the governor. There is a perceived advantage to becoming a judge through the appointment process in that you then get to run as the incumbent judge requesting the voters to keep you instead of outright electing you.
In about 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties there is a time honored tradition and unwritten rule that no one opposes an incumbent judge. Once that judge leaves the seat (retirement, death), there will be a contested race for the judicial seat. In the more populated counties of Ohio that tradition has long gone by the wayside. There will almost always be opponents in every judicial race. That is the case this year in Summit County.
Most candidates prefer the appointment process wherein the governor appoints a candidate to a judgeship. Be aware when a governor makes an appointment, that appointment is based upon the recommendations of the political party in power. Presently, we have a Republican governor so all of the judges appointed under him are Republican and their names have been passed on to him by the local Republican Party. Neither the governor nor the local political party are as concerned about whether the appointee has what it takes to be a good judge as they are about political patronage and whether the appointee will be able to fund their own election expenses. Local political parties are intensely interested in candidates who will not require campaign funding from the party in the next election cycle in order to fund their re-election campaign. Less desirable candidates request campaign funding from their party in the next general election cycle to keep their appointed judgeship. The point being the ability to finance an election campaign is of greater value than the ability to do the job. In addition, campaigning for judicial seats is very time consuming; therefore, you need a judicial candidate who has the time to commit to running for the seat. This excludes most lawyers who have an active trial practice. It favors candidates who either work in a government position or a large practice where they can take time off while others handle their workload.
We file many law suits each year in Summit and surrounding counties and have a good feel for how judges handle their case load. When a lawsuit is filed, cases are randomly assigned to a judge. Let me give you some examples of what we have seen our elected judges do and I ask you if you would like to be the client involved in these cases. For example, we appeared for a jury trial ordered by the judge with our client and witnesses all in tow and ready to begin at 9:00 in the morning only to have the judge not show up until 1:00 that afternoon.
The jury, the parties, the lawyers, and witnesses had all been sitting in a courtroom since approximately 8:30. The judge stated he was late because he had some things he needed to do and took some time off. He did not apologize for keeping about 50 people waiting half a day. He went on to state that he only had a very limited time in which to conclude this case so we needed to move quickly. He was an appointed judge. Our client was appalled by the judge’s attitude. After waiting many years to get to a trial, a date and time which the judge scheduled, a trial to try to obtain some justice from the situation in which he had been wronged, that was not the way he expected to be treated.
In another case at the final pre-trial (parties and lawyers meet to discuss an attempt to resolve the case and potentially how the trial will be run), we appeared at 8:30 as ordered by the Court. The other party and lawyer were also present. The Court room door was locked. Finally at 9:00 some of the judicial staff appeared. When queried about when the final pre-trial would begin, we were informed that the judge had taken the day off since our pretrial was the only thing on her calendar for that day. She was an appointed judge. Evidently, this case was of no importance to the Court although it was of grave importance to the client. I could tell you many stories along this line, I could also tell many stories of judges who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get cases resolved, make the right decisions and do right by the judicial process. For this reason, I believe that we have a very good grasp on what it takes to be a good judge and who is in fact a good judicial candidate. It is true it takes a good temperament to be a good judge, but it also takes humility as opposed to some sense of self-importance and/or entitlement. It takes a strong work ethic. It takes a person willing to think outside of the box and devote themselves to the task be-fore them with the ability to change gears as different and diverse matters are brought before them each day. Judges see humanity at its worst and occasionally at its best. So they must be able to retain the right spirit within and continue the search for good in people.
We would like to share our opinion about who would make the best judges from the current candidates. This is based upon our own experience with the people/candidates involved as opposed to some political affiliation or some newspaper editor who has
never represented a client in front of a Court.
Attached you will find a list of the judicial races with the choice listed we believe to be the better candidate in bold print. It is printed out three times so that you can share this list with friends and family. You have the ability to make a difference on November 4, 2014.
2014 Judicial Elections:
Ohio Supreme Court:
Tom Letson v. Sharon Kennedy
John P. O’Donnell v. Judi French
9th Dist. Court of Appeals: Eve Belfance v. Julie A. Schafer
Summit County Court of Common Pleas:
1. Ron Cable v. Tammy O’Brien (No endorsement in the Cable v. O’Brien race)
2. Tavia Baxter Galonski v. Lynne S. Callahan
3. Lisa Dean v. Alison McCarty
4. Mary Margaret Rowlands v. Beth Whitmore
5. John Clark v. Christine Croce
6. Rob McCarty v. Tom Parker
7. Jon Oldham v. Todd McKenney
Juvenile Division: Linda Tucci Teodosio v. Jill Flagg Lanzinger
Domestic Relations: John P. Quinn v. Katarina Cook
Probate Division: Elinore Marsh Stormer v. Kandi S. O’Connor
*Suggested candidate in bold.