3 Democrats vie for judgeship

English, Restivo, Roberts seek Lucas Co. Common Pleas seat

4/21/2014
BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Editor's Note: This version corrects the age of Mr. English.

English
English

Three Democrats are vying for a seat on Lucas County Common Pleas Court that will become available at the end of Judge Frederick McDonald’s term.

Restivo
Restivo

Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor Ian English, Lucas County Juvenile Magistrate Laura Restivo, and Toledo lawyer Richard Roberts are running for the Democratic nomination in the May 6 primary election.

Roberts
Roberts

Judge McDonald, 70, was barred from seeking re-election because of age restrictions for judicial candidates. He has been on the bench since 1987.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face the Republican nominee. Toledo lawyer Mark Davis, who ran unsuccessfully for Toledo Municipal Court in 2011, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination.

Mr. English, 44, is a lifelong resident of Toledo and graduate of Macomber-Whitney High School. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Toledo.

He ran unsuccessfully for municipal judge in 2009. He has the Lucas County Democratic Party’s endorsement.

Mr. English said he’s “developed a little reputation of being able to win cases that are difficult” from about 70 trials he’s handled since 2001.

“I’m the only person in this race that has spent the last 13 years coming in this building, fighting for families and victims, protecting our community from some of the worst people out there,” said Mr. English, who is married to Vallie Bowman-English, Toledo Municipal Clerk of Courts.

Though a full-time criminal prosecutor for most of his career, Mr. English was a civil bailiff for two judges in the courthouse before passing the bar. He had a civil practice early in his career, and he does some pro bono civil work on the side, with the permission of the prosecutor.

“I’m a student of the law, and I continuously read and update law myself on current cases and changes in Ohio law and federal court system,” Mr. English said.

Magistrate Restivo, 45, of Sylvania Township is the only candidate working as a judge now. She is a magistrate in the county’s juvenile court.

A graduate of Central Catholic High School, Magistrate Restivo also went to UT for her bachelor’s and law degrees. After college, she worked as a bailiff for Judge James Ray in juvenile court and in 1996, after passing the bar exam, became a magistrate.

Magistrate Restivo handles criminal cases ranging from traffic violations to felonies.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience and an honor to work for the families,” she said.

She said she’s interested in reforms that are being discussed such as detention alternative initiatives and sentencing reforms “because we’ve been working on those in juvenile division for 10 years,” adding, “Those are passions that I would like to take with me from the juvenile to the general division,” she said.

Magistrate Restivo is making her first run for judge. However, in 2007 and in 2010 she put her name in for judicial appointments, along with Mr. English.

Her husband, lawyer Jim Restivo, was a nephew of the late Francis “Buddy” Restivo, a retired Common Pleas judge who died in 2013. She called her husband’s uncle “a fabulous man,” but said she’s running on her own accomplishments.

She said those include having served in 2004 on a statewide task force that made recommendations on pro se and indigent litigants.

“We made recommendations on how to make the courts more accessible for people that represent themselves or can’t afford lawyers, to make the courts more accessible,” Magistrate Restivo said. She was the only magistrate in Ohio to serve on that task force.

Mr. Roberts, 64, of Sylvania has been a lawyer 24 years, turning to the bar after his career as a Toledo police officer was cut short at 10 years when a defendant grabbed and twisted his head, aggravating a spinal condition and rendering him disabled.

He was decorated for heroism as a Sylvania Township volunteer firefighter in 1971 and in 1976 as a Toledo policeman. He also worked for the Lucas County Coroner’s Office as an investigator.

Mr. Roberts, who said his family goes back five generations in Sylvania, graduated from Sylvania High School, got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo in 1984 and a law degree in 1988 from the same institution.

“I do mostly criminal work. I have a civil practice which makes me well rounded. I do domestic relations, juvenile work, civil and criminal,” Mr. Roberts said.

“I’ve got the most experience. On one side or the other, I’ve been doing this 42 years — civilian and criminal experience, a myriad of experience that nobody has,” Mr. Roberts said, adding that his police force training “has given me the ability to evaluate things and people very quickly.”

He’s running now, he said, “to give something back” to the community.

For the candidate with the least political experience, Mr. Roberts is out of the gate with the most aggressive publicity campaign to make himself known. He has a 30-second television ad running and plans to insert ads in area newspapers.

The race is one of two in the Lucas County court system with contested primaries. The other is an open seat on Lucas County Domestic Relations Court, which has drawn competition between Democrats John Coble and Jay Feldstein, and Republicans Joe Clarke and Lisa McGowan.

Early voting for the primary is at the Lucas County Board of Elections early vote center at 1946 N. 13th St. downtown, and voters can request an absentee voter.

Also on the ballot are a statewide bond issue question, a special election for Toledo City Council District 2, Democratic and Republican nominations for Lucas County commissioner, the 9th Congressional District Republican nomination, and the Republican nomination for 47th state House district.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.