The Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board endorses incumbent Trumbull County Domestic Relations / Juvenile Court Judge Richard L. James, a Republican, over Democratic challenger Sandra Stabile Harwood in the November General Election. Voting begins Oct. 2.
James has helped the court establish beneficial juvenile programs beyond its expected purview and has several more programs in the works. For example, a community service program allows minor offenders to work off their penalties rather than spend time in the juvenile justice center. A family dependency treatment court increases monitoring and counseling support so that parents and children can be reunited sooner and with more long-term success.
The court is in the process of partnering with Inspiring Minds, a successful youth mentoring program, to offer guidance for at-risk kids, joining forces with the Someplace Safe domestic abuse shelter for an anti-bullying initiative, and intends to expand a truancy plan recently adopted in the Brookfield Local School District.
Harwood has served well for her limit of four terms as a state representative. She has the background and experience to serve well as a judge. However, we disagree that James is responsible for some unfortunate incidents involving the Children Services Board and JJC.
Harwood blames James for two breakouts from the JJC, violent crimes involving CSB, a magistrate allegedly sleeping on the bench during a court proceeding and people being disrespected and screamed at in court.
James responded with a solution to prevent future incidents. The Children Services Board and its director, not a judge, are responsible for problems with the agency, although Ohio law affords judges the right to intervene if they suspect something inappropriate.
A YouTube video surfaced this year showing a magistrate possibly sleeping (the magistrate denies he was asleep) on the bench four years ago. An appeals court upheld his ruling.
When it comes to divorce settlements and custody battles, one might expect heated exchanges among those before the court, but that doesn't mean the judge or his employees are disrespectful.
Hopefully, Harwood remains in public service, perhaps as a volunteer, since she brings solid credentials and a history of success. But James should remain in family court.