Merger of courts unlikely for now

By Ed Runyan


A state representative from Trumbull County says nothing will happen in the Ohio Legislature in the last six weeks before the Nov. 6 election to prevent one of two candidates from being elected to the judgeship of Eastern District Court in Brookfield.

The current judge, Ronald Rice, a Democrat, is retiring to fill the seat being vacated by Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge John M. Stuard, who is retiring.

Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, said the Legislature could still act on one of two bills that were introduced to abolish the Eastern District judgeship and merge it with Central District Court in Cortland, but he doubts the current speaker of the House will allow it to happen this year.

The speaker is William G. Batchelder, a Republican from Medina.

Also, the Legislature is scheduled to be in recess until after the election.

Letson and his fellow Trumbull County state legislator, Sean O’Brien of Brookfield, D-65th, sponsored legislation that would merge the two judgeships with a 2013 election to determine who will serve the position starting in early 2014.

Rep. Casey Kozlowski of Pierpont, R-99th, whose district includes northern Trumbull County, introduced a bill that would have merged the two courts and established an election for the job in 2017 for a term that would begin in 2018.

In both cases, Republican Judge Thomas Campbell, who spearheaded the campaign to turn the two part-time judgeships into one full-time position, would serve as the full-time judge until the next election.

Letson said he doesn’t know whether there is a chance either piece of legislation has a chance to become law in 2013 and beyond.

Two Cortland attorneys, Atty. Randil J. Rudloff and Robert Platt Jr. are on the ballot in November as candidates for the part-time Eastern District Judge position.

The Ohio Supreme Court backed the consolidation, saying the number of cases handled by the two courts justified them being merged. Campbell said the merger would save money.

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