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Position papers: Akron Municipal Court judge

10/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Julie Schafer vs. Gertrude Wilms

Voters living in the Akron Municipal Court district will vote for one candidate for judge for the term commencing Jan. 2, 2014, in the Nov. 5 General Election. The Akron Municipal Court serves the cities of Akron and Fairlawn; the townships of Bath, Richfield and Springfield; the villages of Lakemore and Richfield; and the part of Mogadore in Summit County. The information provided below was submitted by the candidates, with their responses to our questions printed as submitted.


Julie Schafer

What are the three most important issues facing the court and how would you address them?

“Courts are seeing an increasing number of veterans who have returned stateside with a unique set of mental health disorders and cognitive impairments, such as post traumatic stress disorder. Research connects substance abuse and combat-related mental illness which can lead to involvement with our Court systems. A specialty court that deals with the 20 percent of veterans whose issues land them in a court room would be a great asset to our community.

“Municipal Judges establish the fee schedule for the Court. The budget for Akron Municipal Court is approximately $12 million. The fees collected by the Clerk are subdivided over many different entities, including but not limited to the Cities of Akron and Fairlawn, Summit County, and the villages and townships within the Court’s jurisdiction. The remaining fees currently are insufficient to make the Court a self-sustaining entity. The Court must be able to pay its own expenses without borrowing funds. As a member of the Copley-Fairlawn School Board, I’ve had oversight for a fiscally sound and balanced $35 million budget for fourteen years. I would strongly encourage the Judges to review the fee schedule.

“Public confidence in the judiciary is another issue facing the court. When our community leaders fail to rise to the expectations of their positions, public confidence erodes and drags the community down. Electing judges who have demonstrated a track record of accountability and responsibility in their professional lives and in their personal lives as well will go a long way towards restoring the public’s trust.”

What does a judicial demeanor mean to you and do you think you have it?

“A ‘judicial demeanor’ means that one is knowledgeable of the law, able to competently manage an office and a docket, treats all persons with respect, and comports oneself in his/her private live and in the community as a leader. Having been elected by the great people in the Copley-Fairlawn City school district four times, I believe I have continued to live up to their expectations, earned their trust, and have consistently provided the leadership they demand for their children’s education. Further, my years as a guardian ad litem and a foster parent have afforded me unique opportunities to meet people on their turf and to not impose my personal values on them or their life choices. I believe that a ‘judicial demeanor’ requires a judge to rise above the politics, partisanship and division that have become rampant and approach everyone who comes before the court without bias or preconceived notions.

“‘Judicial demeanor’ requires vigilance. Over the years, I have keenly observed how community leaders have landed themselves in hot water. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but I have learned to apply the ‘newspaper test’ — if what you’re thinking about doing would be newsworthy, don’t do it! Our elected leaders are held to a higher standard — and they should be — our communities need it and our children require it. I have the requisite judicial demeanor and I will continue to strive to be the kind of leader in which our community has confidence and respect.”


Gertrude Wilms

What are the three most important issues facing the court and how would you address them?

The three most important issues facing the Akron Municipal Court:

  1. “The management of the specialty courts currently operating at the Akron Municipal Court must be reevaluated to ensure compliance with the new mandates set by the Supreme Court of Ohio.
  2. “The Akron Municipal Court needs to update courtroom technology. Alternative funding sources and grant opportunities can be explored to replace the out dated and ineffective equipment.
  3. “Jail overcrowding continues to be an issue in all court systems. When appropriate I would be open to exploring alternative sentencing options to jail confinement.”

What does a judicial demeanor mean to you and do you think you have it?

“Based on my years of experience and observations, I would define judicial demeanor to mean all parties in a proceeding are treated with dignity and respect to make certain fair results are achieved by the court. As a judge I would strive to implement that policy in every matter before me.”

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