Judge races abound in Trumbull

By Ed Runyan



Incumbent Trumbull County Family Court Judge Richard L. James, a Republican, admits that despite his 19 years on the bench, he’s concerned about the challenge from Democrat Sandra Stabile Harwood.

Harwood has name recognition from eight years as a state representative.

But Judge James stands by his work, including his handling of a custody case that drew public scrutiny because the child involved was raped by her biological father and mother while they visited her at the Trumbull County Children Services Board offices.

Stabile Harwood says the judge had a responsibility in that case to set “strict requirements” for how visitation should have been handled.

“I wish I could be more specific. If you look at the case, you’ll see why strict requirements should have been given,” Stabile Harwood said. “I’m not saying the judge should tell CSB how to run the agency, but in particular cases, you should be proactive in making sure children are safe.”

Judge James said CSB is run by a board of directors appointed by the county commissioners and trains its employees and foster parents. The court makes the decision to order supervised visits or not, “but it’s up to CSB to determine how to carry out the court’s order,” he said. “In very rare cases, we can intervene.”

There is another court race in Trumbull County for voters served by the two county courts in Cortland and Brookfield. Such courts mainly handle misdemeanor charges. Republican Robert M. Platt faces Democrat Randil J. Rudloff to fill the seat in Eastern District Court in Brookfield being vacated by Judge Ronald Rice, who is unopposed to become Trumbull County Common Pleas judge.

Platt and Rudloff will serve no more than one six-year term because they would both be 70 by the next election and therefore ineligible to run again.

Platt has been a private practice attorney since 1974 and also served 28 years as West Farmington solicitor and 15 years as Cortland solicitor.

For the past 22 years, he has served as acting judge in both the Central and Eastern District courts, meaning he fills in for the sitting judge.

Rudloff has worked in private practice since 1973 and has served as acting judge in the Eastern and Central District courts for more than 25 years.

Rudloff has served more than 35 years on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel as counsel for the Trumbull County Bar Assocation. In that role, he handles disciplinary matters involving Trumbull County attorneys.

A third judicial race in Trumbull County features incumbent Mary J. Trapp and challenger Colleen M. O’Toole running for a seat on the Warren-based 11th District Court of Appeals, which reviews criminal and civil cases from municipal and county courts in Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga, Portage and Trumbull counties.

One issue in the race was a complaint filed against O’Toole accusing her of committing campaign violations by insinuating she is a sitting judge.

O’Toole, who served as appeals court judge from 2004 to 2010, was ordered by a five-judge panel appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to stop wearing a badge that identifies her as a judge and to remove references on her web site calling her “Judge O’Toole.”

The panel also on Wednesday ordered that O’Toole be publicly reprimanded, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay at least $2,500 to compensate the person who filed the complaint for his legal costs.

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