Mary Jane Trapp (Democrat)

Running for
ResidenceRussell Township, OH
EducationCase Western Reserve University, School of Law, Cleveland, Ohio, J.D., January 1981 Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts, A.B., cum laude, May 1978 Columbus School for Girls, Columbus, Ohio, College Preparatory Curriculum, May 1974
EmployerOhio Court of Appeals, Eleventh Appellate District, Judge, 2007-present
FamilyF. Michael Apicella
Step-children: Catherine Apicella, Carol Newburg, Susan Patton & Michael Apicella
Family in office?No
Time in areaI moved to Northeast Ohio in 1978.
Reasons for runningCitizens deserve a fair and impartial judiciary. I chose to run for the court of appeals because of the importance of the court of appeals as a court of last resort to correct mistakes which may have occurred at the trial level. Less than eight percent of the cases appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio are actually accepted, thus final justice usually rests at the court of appeals level.When I first sought this office I set certain goals: to foster confidence in the courts, to assure fair and equal access to justice, and to promote the use of technology to reduce costs and to speed the administration of justice. I want to continue this work in a second term.
Priorities I will continue to pursue efforts started during my three years in a leadership position on our court to which I brought my skills honed as the managing partner of a successful law firm to the management of our court. Under my watch we reduced our operating budget, we accomplished a staff reorganization to further increase efficiency and better utilize staff talents, and we achieved a reduction in the time it takes to complete an appeal from an average of 12 or even 18 months to an average of 7 to 8 months through the use of a new case tracking system I developed for my own chambers which was then adopted court-wide. I now share a secretary because I do most of my own typing and scheduling. We will continue to re-assess staffing vis a vis our case load. We are now preparing our court for electronic filing and updating our court rules, which will reduce costs for the parties. Having been instrumental in bringing pro bono foreclosure mediation to each of five counties we serve, I will continue to work with the bar association legal aid committees to develop free legal advice clinics and other services to meet the growing unmet legal needs in our area. During my first term I reached out to the US Marshall Service and convinced them that the Fugitive Safe Surrender program could work in the valley, and now that we have had the first surrender event, I will continue to develop, encourage, facilitate and promote any programs designed to improve our judicial system. I will expand a series of civics learning materials, which are key components of my community outreach project, “Civics Learners and Leaders,” a program to promote and encourage students to learn more about law and citizenship.
QualificationsI offer a different background and perspective forged in the crucible of twenty five years in the private practice of law representing working families, children at risk and small business owners. My broad general civil and criminal trial practice gave me the experience in just about every area of law we review. I became a judge the old fashioned way by first laying a foundation, learning my trade through my law practice in the trenches of both state and federal courts which took me to all levels of the justice system across the state from small claims court to the Ohio Supreme Court.

I am not a career elected official nor did I rely on those politically well connected to achieve my position as either state bar president or judge; rather I relied on individuals who believed in independent thought, fidelity to the constitution and precedent, and shared my passion for the law and court reform to help me attain positions where I could make a difference.

As I stand for re-election to the 11th District Court of Appeals, I offer a record of over 470 written opinions, including a key opinion upholding the constitutionality of the new form of government chosen by the people of Cuyahoga County. I have served as a visiting judge on the Ohio Supreme Court and 4 other sister appellate court districts by appointment of the chief justice.

I was also chosen by my peers as their designee on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s commission that writes the rules of practice and procedure for all Ohio courts below the Supreme Court. Having also served on that commission for 6 years as an attorney, I offer my nine years of experience in writing rules to assure that they provide a level playing field, a fair court process for everyone. These legal reform efforts were recognized when I became the first Ohio Court of Appeals Judge and one of only 3 judges nationwide to be selected last year by the Council of State Governments for the nationally prestigious Toll Fellowship.

Unlike other states, Ohio does not routinely conduct mid-term evaluations of its judges, but because I was a Supreme Court candidate in 2010, I was evaluated by the non-partisan Judicial Candidates Ratings Coalition, and I was the only Supreme Court candidate to receive a perfect 4.0 rating.

So far this year I have received the preferred candidate rating from the Trumbull County Bar Association by a margin of 83% to my opponent’s 17%. In the Geauga Bar Association poll I received a highly recommended (83 votes) or recommended (13 votes) in 101 out of 106 ballots cast for a combined rating of 95.3% I have earned this respect because I approach each case with an open mind, and I am dedicated to making the right decision rather than trying to fit the case into a so-called “formulaic box” predetermined by a personal or political agenda.I am most proud of the fact that we have restored stability and civility to our court as well as a renewed respect for the law
Positions on the issues I have been asked by other about these issues:

To keep judges accountable to the voters, remove special interest money from the process and set the highest standards for impartial justice, we need fresh ideas. The voters of Ohio have rejected the so-called merit selection (appointment) of judges and I respect their will because Ohioans deserve to have judges directly accountable to them. No system for selecting judges is perfect, but I view the current proposal for an appointive system as a table without all of the legs because it is incomplete. Our goal is to ensure an impartial judiciary not influenced by political or special interests. Thus any proposal for reform should include a new approach to the entire question of campaign finance (but not through another tax), wide distribution of non-partisan League of Women Voter’s informational voter guides, a stronger recusal rule being studied by an American Bar Association committee, and increased objective qualifications for judges.

Judicial races no longer seem to focus on candidates’ qualifications. It really does not matter anymore whether the perception is based upon reality when, as documented in the Brennan Center for Justice study,“the new politics of judicial elections has made the public fear that justice is for sale” When seven out of ten people believe that campaign contributions affect the outcome of cases and nearly half of the state court judges agree, then we have a problem that must be addressed. Any proposal for reform should include a new approach to the entire question of campaign finance to provide a pool of funds raised through court costs, check offs on tax returns, or other revenue sources, which could be tapped by the candidate, who would agree to accept smaller contributions and follow fundraising and spending limits. Three states have adopted public financing for judicial races. Public financing could help restore the public’s confidence in our judicial system and should be considered.
Offices Sought Ohio Court of Appeals, Eleventh Appellate District, Judge 2004
Offices Held Supreme Court of Ohio Commission on Rules of Practice and Procedure, 2009-2011
Supreme Court of Ohio Professionalism Commission, 2008
Supreme Court of Ohio CLE Commission, 2005-2008
Supreme Court of Ohio Rules Advisory Committee – Member of Appellate Rules Subcommittee, 1997-2000
Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on the Unauthorized Practice of Law, 1986-1989