When a 9-month-old girl is raped while in the care of the Trumbull County Children Services Board, residents have a right to demand answers. But due to the heinous nature of the crime, there is a tendency to point the finger of blame — even if there is only a tenuous basis for doing so.
Thus it is with Trumbull County Domestic Juvenile Court Judge Richard L. James, who is seeking re-election Nov. 6 to fourth six-year term. Because Judge James authorized CSB to arrange supervised visitation for the child, his challenger in the election, Atty. Sandra Stabile Harwood, says he bears some responsibility for what occurred.
Harwood’s position — while enticing, given the horrible details of the case — is harder to support. Indeed, a Trumbull County Grand Jury has determined that no employees of the agency should face criminal charges. A special prosecutor, Atty. Paul Scarsella of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, presented the information surrounding the rape to the grand jury.
By any measure, what was done to the baby by her biological parents — her father, Cody Beemer, has pleaded guilty to rape and other offenses, while her mother awaits trial — is evil. It is beyond comprehension.
But nothing is to be gained by assigning blame where it does not belong.
We are not questioning Harwood’s sincerity in discussing the issue. The former state legislator has a long history of involvement in paternity and support issues and family law has been the focus of her legal practice.
But, we do not believe that the rape of the child in the care of CSB is an indication of James’ failure to do his job. Harwood’s suggestion that the judge should have gone beyond what he did in granting supervised visitation goes too far..
There are two domestic juvenile judges in Trumbull County, James and Pamela Rintala, and while there have been lapses in the court’s operation, we do not believe they rise to the level of electoral termination.
James acknowledges, for example, that the escape of a juvenile who was in detention was the result of the security system failing. But he pointed out the system was antiquated and that spare parts were hard to find. Nonetheless, the court was in the process of replacing monitors for the security control system when the breakout occurred.
Now, there is a state-of-the-art security system that was paid for by the Ohio Department of Youth Services, a grant and tax dollars.
Over his years on the bench, James has learned that no one who appears in his court wants to be there, so he strives to get each person through the “bad stage” of his or her life.
If he is elected to another term, the judge hopes to make “some type of impact” on truancy and to work with parent groups to develop anti-bullying initiatives.
Harwood is of the opinion that James has become stale on the bench, which explains some of the operational shortcomings of the court.
While the challenger is knowledgeable about the workings of the domestic juvenile court, she did not make a persuasive case to The Vindicator’s editorial board for ending Judge James’ tenure.
The incumbent, on the other hand, was forthright in admitting the shortcomings of the court, but was also proud of his accomplishments and his 19-plus years on the bench.
After careful consideration, The Vindicator has concluded that Judge James has earned another term. We, therefore, endorse him in the Nov. 6 general election.