Election 2012: Judge candidates bring experience to contestsWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Neither candidate for judge of Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, General Division, believes the politics of his party should have anything to do with the decision voters make.
Incumbent Myron C. Duhart and challenger Kenneth Phillips both said that experience, and nothing else, should dictate the voters’ choice.
Myron C. Duhart
Duhart, a Democrat, credits his grandmother, as well as his military and professional law resumes, with giving him the background and experience to make him the best choice for Common Pleas Court judge.
“This is the court of general jurisdiction in which there are serious civil cases as well as serious criminal cases,” Duhart said. “As such, you need a judge who has a broad base of experience, not only in law, but life experience.”
Duhart cited his experience practicing law in federal, state, municipal, juvenile and probate court. Additionally, he has worked in the legal department of a bank, as a law clerk, in the public defender’s office and in private practice for 16 years.
“In private practice, I did a lot of civil work, a lot of criminal work, and probate and down the line,” Duhart said. “That is what sets us apart.
“You need to understand, the folks that come in front of you generally want their day in court. They want to feel as though you’re fair and that you’re going to listen to their case and work hard at their case in understanding the issues. And I think they want to know that they’re going to get a fair shot and a fair decision. In order to do that, you need a broad-based range of life experience as well.”
Duhart was raised by his maternal grandmother, who sold Avon to put him through high school.
Growing up in Toledo’s central city gave Duhart the opportunity to interact with people of different backgrounds, he said.
“The military does the same thing. They put you in high pressure situations with people from everywhere,” he said.
Duhart is also involved in the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation of Northwest Ohio. He was also honored in 2009 as one of Toledo’s “20 Under 40” winners for his and his wife Nicole’s business successes, including 14 Jackson-Hewitt tax preparation franchises.
Phillips, a Republican, credits his upbringing as well as the depth of his professional resume with giving him the foundation to serve as judge of the Common Pleas Court.
Phillips worked as a certified legal intern, a public defender in Toledo Municipal Court, a fraud investigator of economic crimes as a member the Toledo Police Department, a corporate security educator for Continental Insurance and a prosecuting attorney in Licking County. Phillips has also trained adjustors to identify and report fraud, worked 13 years in private practice and as a teacher at Craven College in New Bern, N.C.
“Everything I’ve been doing leads up to this,” Phillips said. “I come from a blue-collar family. I’m the first one in my family to get a college degree. I was raised, ‘If you want to do something, earn it.’ I’m more of a common guy. I’ve worked in factories. I was a dues-paying Teamster, a member of the [United Auto Workers], the Glass Bottle Blowers.
“I can relate to Toledo because I’m like Toledo.”
He added, “The Constitution guarantees you a jury of your peers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a judge of your peers? Although he’s a nice guy, I’m more like the citizenship than my opponent.
“And one of the reasons this is especially important — not urgent, but important enough that we decided to make it happen — is my father had a massive heart attack getting signatures for the petitions (for Phillips name to be placed on the ballot).”
Phillips received a phone call Dec. 3 from a resident of the Ragan Woods neighborhood asking if he was the Ken Phillips running for judge.
“I said, ‘Yes,’” Phillips said. “And she said, ‘Well, your dad had a heart attack on my porch.’ I thought he just fell. We went to the hospital. He had gone already.
“Dad’s last breath was trying to make this happen, so we’re all into it.”
Phillips is on the board of directors of The Open Door Ministry, a VA-funded program in Toledo that houses homeless veterans and provides job training and drug and alcohol treatment. He is also the unpaid president of Toledo R House, a support facility for youth ages 13-25 who have drug and alcohol issues.
Phillips wants to introduce five specialty courts into the Court of Common Pleas, much like the specialty courts in the Juvenile Court system. Specifically, he wants to establish a veterans court, a drug and alcohol treatment court, a sexual offender court, a re-entry court and a family drug court.
Phillips said there are “grants and money sitting there at the federal level waiting for courts like this.
“Our Ohio Supreme Court has a whole section for specialty court training. I’ve been going every year to their trainings, and I have a good relationship with them.”
Duhart dismissed the idea of specialty courts, except for a veterans court. He said specialty courts are appropriate for people facing misdemeanor charges, but that people who appear in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas face felony charges.
Duhart also said the money that Phillips talked about is not available, and that the workload would require hiring more employees than the budget can support.