A Letter to Our Clients

A Letter to Our Clients

Dear Clients, Friends, and Family:

November 8, 2016 is Election Day and it is fast approaching. In addition to the high profile races saturating the airwaves, there are a number of judicial races that are important to our community here in Northeast Ohio. Every election cycle we are asked by clients, friends and family what our opinion is regarding judicial candidates as we deal with the judicial process on a daily basis. To that end, below this letter is a sample of the ballot with some of the judicial races that are before   us this year.

Our higher courts, and in particular our Ohio Supreme Court, have become severely off-balance.   In the last decade Ohio became a national story as the insurance industry poured millions of dollars into a high-stakes takeover. In the midst of this feeding frenzy, one of our most respected justices stated to a national news organization:

“I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station in any race I’ve ever been in as I did in a judicial race.”

That’s Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, who had previously served as a state senator and representative. He had been through at least six elections before his first judicial campaign, so he knows what he’s talking about. Traditionally these had been ‘sleepy’ races, but no longer.  Accordingly the current Court is 6-1 and many of its justices were the beneficiaries of this massive spending. (This was supposed to somehow lower your insurance rates. Please call us if that worked out for you.) The candidates we have endorsed are underfunded, outgunned, disrespected by boardrooms and Wall Street, but the sort of folks who have repeatedly said no to the powerful and will remember that   the courts are there to serve the people.

At the trial court level, we have focused on the general division races, as these are the courts that hear general civil and criminal cases (as opposed to the specialized courts such as probate, juvenile, and domestic relations). General division courts have the busiest and varied dockets in Ohio, and it is crucial to have judges who can manage these complicated, heavy workloads.

As the majority of our clients reside in Summit, Stark, Portage, and Medina counties, we have limited our county-level races to these counties. As it happens, there are no general division contested races in Portage and Stark counties this year. When you read the next article, you will understand why.

Our recommendations are in bold. We urge you to take this with you to the polls and share this with your friends and families. While these races may not be as high profile as the presidential election, they are very important. We strongly encourage you to vote and make your voice heard.

Early voting has already begun in Ohio. For further information please visit the Secretary of State at www.sos.state.oh.us or your local board of elections. If you have any questions about the judicial candidates or if you need assistance getting to the polls, please let us know.

The politics of the Judiciary

The politics of the Judiciary 

Below is a list of judges who come to mind that have served as a judge in Summit County since 2010 but are no longer sitting as a judge:

1) Jane M. Davis

2) Clair E. Dickinson

3) Eve Belfance *  

4) Judith L. Hunter *   

5) Patricia Cosgrove

6) Bill Spicer

7) Brenda Burnham Unruh

8) Thomas Parker *

9) Thomas M. McCarty

10) John Holcomb

11) Todd McKenney *

12) Christine Croce *

13) Greg Macko

     *   Multiple courts

A few have retired. Most however have been either moved to another location through the political process or defeated in a race for the seat they held.

In Summit County there are 29 state judicial seats including Municipal Court, The Court of Common Pleas and The Ninth District Court of Appeals which happens to sit in Summit County.  Elected Judges serve a 6 year term. As you can see by the list of judges who’ve come and gone in the last six years, there is a high attrition rate in being a judge in Summit County. By comparison in Portage and Medina Counties we have the following statistics. There are 12 state court judicial seats in Portage County and 11 judicial seats in Medina County. Since 2010 the judges who have   left the bench in Portage County are Judge Thomas Carnes, Judge John A. Enlow, Judge John Plough and Judge Joseph Giulitto and they left due to retirement after many years of service as a judge.

Since 2010 the judges who have left the bench in Medina County are Judge James Kimbler and Judge John J. Lohn and they left due to retirement after many years of service as a judge. So why   is it in Summit County that we have such a turnover of judges? The answer is simple: politics. When there is a vacancy on the bench, a judge is appointed by the governor. As the current governor is a republican, all of the appointments since Governor Kasich came to office have been republican. Likewise his predecessor Governor Strickland, a democrat, only appointed democrats. Usually whenever a  judicial seat is up for election, it is a contested race with someone running from the opposite party in Summit County. What that brings us to is many of the judges are more politician than they are lawyer. We have judges with little or no experience coming on to the bench. We have one sitting judge right now that one of us has never met despite having cases in her court and hearings set before her. Magically she’s never been there at any of these. The point being that we represent clients in these courts and we have a good feel for the judges who actually work.

Our recommendations in this newsletter do not show a judge’s political affiliation. A judge’s political affiliation means nothing to us. We have good and bad judges who are both democrats and republicans. We are more interested in a judge who has a good work ethic and their experience; work ethic being the more important factor. Thus we take the recommendations we make in this newsletter seriously and we ask that you urge every member of your family to vote and urge you to have your friends, neighbors, and relatives vote as well and share this guide with them.