There won’t be a special election in November to fill the seat on Youngstown Municipal Court being vacated Aug. 1 by Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr., according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
An initial review of state law and the Ohio Constitution led city Law Director Anthony Farris and Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe to believe an election in November would be needed.
But in a late Friday email to Farris, Gretchen A. Quinn, the secretary of state’s elections counsel, clarified the issue.
State law can give the impression that an election is needed, but “must be read together with the controlling provisions of” the state Constitution, she wrote.
Quinn emphasized a passage about a special election not being needed for a judicial seat with a term that expires the following year.
“The good news is, we finally have a definitive answer,” Munroe said. “The law is complex and has moving parts. That’s why it ended up with the secretary of state. They see this all the time.”
Judge Douglas announced April 30 that he would retire Aug. 1 from his seat on the city’s municipal court. His term ends Dec. 31, 2013.
Under state law, Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, fills judicial vacancies.
The governor has asked the county Republican Party to initiate the search to replace Judge Douglas, a Democrat.
The county party will announce in the next week or two a time line for filling the vacancy, Munroe said.
The party will accept applications and then interview candidates, recommending three to the governor, Munroe said.
The governor’s office will vet the finalists and choose Judge Douglas’ replacement.
The local GOP screening process and recommendations will be given to Kasich before the judge’s retirement date, Munroe said.
“We want to give him plenty of time to make a decision by Aug. 1,” Munroe said of the governor.
Munroe said he’s already been contacted by about a half-dozen attorneys interested in the appointment.
Because there aren’t many lawyers who live in Youngstown interested in the job, the person appointed could be a Democrat.
Judge Douglas was appointed to a vacancy in November 1997 by then-Gov. George V. Voinovich, a Republican.