Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Elizabeth Kobly’s decision to retire before her term expires didn’t come as a shock. It’s been talked about for a while.
But what was somewhat of a surprise was that she’s leaving Aug. 30.
“It’s time,” she said. “Very few of us have accomplished just about everything we set out to accomplish.”
She was primarily talking about her lengthy battle with the city administration to get the municipal court facilities out of its cramped quarters on the second floor of city hall and into the recently renovated city hall annex building on West Front Street.
Kobly is known as a tough judge. I’ve sat in the courtroom during some of her sentencings – primarily for higher-profile cases – and she rarely let those who deserved to be punished walk away.
Kobly, a Democrat, was first appointed judge in 2000 by then-Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, to replace Andrew Polovischak Jr., who resigned over federal corruption crimes.
It will be up to another Republican governor, John Kasich, to appoint Kobly’s replacement.
The person appointed will fill out the rest of Kobly’s term, which expires Jan. 1, 2020.
That person will have the advantage of incumbency when the election for that seat takes place next year – the primary is in May and the general election is in November 2019.
Based on discussions I had, there’s no shortage of candidates looking to get Kasich’s appointment as well as run in the 2019 election for a full six-year term.
The Mahoning County Republican Party will put together a screening committee and interview candidates for the job.
The deadline to apply is Aug. 17.
The committee will recommend up to three candidates for the judicial appointment to Kasich.
Several higher-profile candidates told me they plan to apply for the position including city Law Director Jeff Limbian and former city Law Director Martin Hume, who is currently an assistant county prosecutor.
Also, Anthony Farris, another former city law director who now works as a senior assistant Ohio attorney general, said he is interested in the position.
Although I haven’t heard from him, I expect city Magistrate Anthony Sertick, who lost last year’s Democratic primary for a municipal court judge seat, to also seek the appointment.
But I believe the person with the inside track to be the likely successor to Kobly is Renee DiSalvo, who works in private practice and is a former assistant city prosecutor.
Unlike the other candidates looking to replace Kobly, DiSalvo is a registered Republican.
Youngstown is a Democratic stronghold so finding a qualified Republican such as DiSalvo interested in the appointment gives her an advantage.
However, if she gets the appointment, it could very well be a struggle for her to win next year’s election.
As I just mentioned, Youngs-town is a Democratic-dominated city.
Though judicial candidates in Ohio don’t run with political-party labels in general elections, the Democratic nominee will let it be known he/she is a Democrat and use that as an advantage.
FILING DEADLINE NEARS
Meanwhile, Tuesday is the filing deadline for candidates to run for Mahoning County Court judge.
There are three seats on the ballot.
To date, Judges Scott Hunter and Joseph Houser are running unopposed for their positions.
It’s doubtful anyone will challenge either longtime incumbent and if they do, Hunter and Houser have huge advantages over potential opponents.
The other seat on the ballot is for the position held by suspended Judge Diane Vettori.
So far, five candidates have filed for the seat.
They are Kathi McNabb Welsh of Boardman, A. Ross Douglass of Canfield, Matt Gambrel of Boardman, Christopher Sammarone of Canfield and J.P. Morgan of Canfield.
Vettori of Canfield faces charges of mail fraud, structuring cash deposits and making false statements to law-enforcement officers. She is prohibited by the Ohio Supreme Court from hearing cases while her case is pending.
Federal prosecutors accuse Vettori, in her capacity as a private attorney, of stealing at least $96,200 from the Glenwood Avenue property of Dolores Falgiani after Falgiani died in March 2016. She also is accused of depositing that money in a way that avoided federal reporting requirements and of lying to FBI agents when confronted about the matter.
She rejected a government deal to settle the charges and prosecutors say they’ll go before a federal grand jury to seek an indictment against her.