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Position papers: Akron Municipal Court judge

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

Katarina Cook (incumbent) vs. Jon Oldham

Voters living in the Akron Municipal Court district will vote for one candidate for judge for the term commencing Jan. 1, 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.


Katarina Cook (incumbent)

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

“As your Akron Municipal Court judge, I have presided over thousands of cases. I work hard to protect our neighborhoods from violent crime and drugs. I hold offenders accountable and deliver appropriate sentences when necessary. I set high bonds on violent felonies because I consider the safety of the community as my highest priority. My years of experience as a prosecutor, mediator, magistrate and judge have prepared me well for the difficult decisions I am often required to make.

“The three issues which I find to be challenging today are: first, youth without goals, or hope; second, a cycle of violence without interruption; and third, substance abuse that ruins lives.

  1. “My work as former chair of Akron Bar’s Street Law and Mock Trial Committees helps to introduce young people to our legal system in a positive way. I coach a mock trial team at St. Hilary and welcome young people to observe my court and learn about the legal process.
  2. “In cases where violence is involved, I examine the situation and consider the safety of the victim when delivering an appropriate sentence. Serious offenses deserve serious sentences. In order to stop a cycling of criminal behavior, I continually strive to find more resources and programs the court can utilize.
  3. “As presiding judge of the OVI Court, I hold repeat offenders accountable with strict monitoring and substance abuse treatment, as they work toward the goal of reclaiming their lives. This court has a high rate of successful completion.”

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

“My twenty-two plus years of legal experience includes extensive in-court time conducting hearings and trying cases. As a result of my career as prosecutor, magistrate and judge, I am sensitive to those who have fallen victim to crimes. Along with protecting the constitutional rights of an accused, I am also mindful that victims have a right to be heard as well. Judicial demeanor is the ethical and impartial approach I take to maintain my court.

“As judge, I run an efficient docket. In my Court I treat the litigants and their attorneys with respect, and I listen to both sides of an issue. Having been a law clerk for three judges, been a prosecutor for four years, and having appeared in front of many of the current Common Pleas judges while an attorney, I understand the importance of civility in the courtroom, and how justice can be thwarted when a judge does not treat both parties with fairness.

“I also believe it is necessary to be polite but firm with all attorneys’ and individual’s behavior in the courtroom. I do not allow verbal abuse between the parties and will deal with those situations accordingly. I continually strive to set an example and uphold the judicial canons and the laws and constitution of this state and country. It is my honor to serve as your judge and I respectfully ask for your vote.”


Jon Oldham

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

“Jail Overcrowding.

“Jail overcrowding strains our system and impacts public safety. At the misdemeanor level, judges are running out of resources to use as punishment to deter criminal activity because overcrowded jails make it difficult, if not impossible, to sentence convicted offenders to jail. When this happens, the offenders are often released back into the community. Drug and alcohol addiction, and mental health concerns are major contributors to crime. By strengthening and fully utilizing our nationally recognized specialty courts, we can provide counseling and therapy services to address crime where it begins, reduce recidivism, and save money for our community. Specialty courts cost less money than confinement — both short and long-term.

“Lack of Legal Representation.

“To many people in our Court our unable to pay for lawyers to represent them in civil matters. This can result in questionable judgments being obtained against them that ultimately force them into bankruptcy. To address this growing concern, the Court can (1) actively encourage pro bono services from local lawyers; (2) strengthen the available legal aid programs to provide legal advice; and, (3) work with the law school to use certified legal intern law students to provide supervised representation.

“Outdated Technology.

“Our Court’s technology is outdated and needs improvement. Other area courts use advanced technology to file documents, present cases more efficiently, and educate jurors. This is especially important in this age of ever-increasing technology. The Court needs to work with the Clerk of Courts to address this concern and improve our system.”

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

“Judicial demeanor is the proper behavior that the public deserves from judges. Judges should be compassionate, fair, impartial, patient, and objective. A judge treats people with dignity and respect, strives for justice, and bases decisions on the merits. An appropriate demeanor may be best understood by what it is not: arrogance, shrillness, insistence on a personal viewpoint, or the use of a trusted office for self-aggrandizement.

“Many who appear in court struggle with serious financial issues, mental illness, or substance abuse. Municipal Court is the ‘People’s Court’ and a judge there will see all of this. A judge can bring empathy and respect without loss of objectivity. It may be difficult to give the troubled a full opportunity to be heard, but that is part of the judicial job description. An intolerant or ‘too busy’ judge demeans the entire judicial system.

“As a magistrate in two courts, I have learned to balance fairness and sympathy in the large variety of cases I have heard. I have dealt with numerous potentially disruptive parties and situations without losing my focus on the goal of being a good and impartial ‘decider.’ In addition, the breadth of my experience as a private attorney for more than a decade, my active service in our community, and the patience I learn in raising two daughters has given me the qualities I have listed here. I truly want to help people become more productive citizens in our community.

“I respectfully ask for your vote on November 5th.”

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