Toledo Municipal Court is where most people first meet the legal system, usually for small-claims civil lawsuits, misdemeanor offenses, housing code violations, and the like.
It can be a chaotic place. Like municipal courts everywhere, it is one of the city's busiest legal venues, one that must dispense justice quickly, but with a consistent sense of compassion, and an understanding that some people may need something between a shove and a nudge in the right direction to get them straight.
It's a tough job, this delivery of mass justice, but Amy Berling, during her first term on the court, has handled it in a serious and thoughtful manner, and with a gutsiness her shy demeanor belies. She deserves another term.
The justice Judge Berling metes out in criminal cases is often and correctly contingent on referrals to alcohol, drug, and mental health treatment. Her aim is to assure that the people who appear before her, often more misdirected than evil, receive a chance to get back on track. She can be tough, and often is. But she is persistent in looking for opportunities through which people can better their situation under her supervision.
She did not fare as well as she might in a recent poll of 300 of the 1,700-plus members of the Toledo bar. That poll's typically political nature must be taken into account. She has improved her performance during her tenure and that should continue.
Judge Berling was a tireless campaigner in her first go-round and continues to work hard to win re-election. She has been taking her race to the gates of factories in the wee hours of the morning, and door-to-door in nearly every city neighborhood, including those in the central city. This suggests a laudable seriousness and an intensity that is desirable in political candidates.
Her opponent, John Mattimoe, is a respected member of the bar with a predominantly personal injury practice. His court experience, other than as a lawyer, is having clerked for judges in the common pleas court in his younger days. The day may very well come when he assumes a seat on the bench, but it should not be Judge Berling's.