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A twist to judicial selection



Published: Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

Chamber luncheon: Attorney General Mike DeWine will be the guest speaker at a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber luncheon, starting at 11:30 a.m. May 29 at Ciminero’s Banquet Centre, 123 N. Main St. in Niles.

DeWine is expected to talk about the state’s oil and gas drilling regulations, shale development in Ohio, and what his office is doing to help businesses comply with Ohio consumer laws.

The admission cost is $20. Advanced reservations are requested by May 22 by calling Jennifer at 330-744-2131 extension 12, email her at jennifer@regionalchamber.com or go to the chamber’s website — www.regionalchamber.com — and click on “events.”

DeWine, a Republican, previously served as a member of the Ohio Senate, the U.S. House, as lieutenant governor and 12 years as a U.S. senator. He defeated incumbent Attorney General Richard Cordray, a Democrat, by 1.28 percentage points in the November 2010 election sweep by Republicans of the state’s executive office seats.

The Mahoning County Republican Party plans to announce in the next week or two how it will fill the judicial term on Youngstown Municipal Court being vacated Aug. 1 by Robert A. Douglas Jr.

But the person appointed may not last that long on the bench.

That’s because the timing of Judge Douglas’ retirement quite likely requires a vote on the Nov. 6 ballot by registered city residents, said county Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe and Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris.

Judge Douglas’ term expires Dec. 31, 2013.

Under state law, if a municipal court judicial vacancy occurs between early May and early September, an election must be held to fill the unexpired term.

No final decision has been made, but it sure looks like Judge Douglas’ seat will be up for grabs in November.

State law doesn’t address a political party primary in cases like this so it’s probable there won’t be one.

Candidates wanting to replace Judge Douglas would need nominating petitions with 50 valid signatures to the county board of elections no later than 10 days after his Aug. 1 retirement to get on the November ballot.

Even if the selection process to replace Judge Douglas moves very fast, the person chosen to succeed him would have less than four months as the incumbent before the general election.

Despite the strong likelihood that the judicial seat will be on the November ballot, the county Republican Party is moving ahead with the process to fill the vacancy, Munroe said.

Under state law, Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, fills judicial vacancies.

The county Republican Party is to recommend three candidates with the governor making the final decision. Judge Douglas is a Democrat appointed to fill a vacancy on the court in November 1997 by then-Gov. George V. Voinovich, a Republican.

Then, like now, you can probably count the number of Republican attorneys living in Youngstown who are interested in being a municipal court judge on two hands.

Screening committee

Munroe said the party will create a screening committee and start the replacement process soon.

The party would give the names of the top three candidates to the governor before Judge Douglas’ term expires, Munroe said.

Even though it will probably be a short-term appointment, Munroe said he’s been contacted by about a half-dozen attorneys interested in being appointed to the post.

“I’ve become a popular guy,” he said.


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