ALL but one of the six Lucas County Common Pleas Court judgeships up for election on Nov. 2 are contested. Given that many judges have ascended to the bench unopposed in previous years, we consider this year's nearly full slate a victory for the political process, and we commend both parties for it. Only Judge Ruth Ann Franks is unopposed.
Both political parties should also be praised not just for fielding judicial candidates - that's their job - but for putting up good people. The high quality of the candidates makes choices in several races tougher than usual.
The contest for juvenile court judge is an example. We recommend the election of Lynn Schaefer, a Republican appointed to the post by Governor Taft last December, although her Democratic opponent, Denise Cubbon, also has impressive credentials in handling juvenile offenders.
Judge Schaefer, who was chief administrative hearing officer of the county child support enforcement agency prior to her appointment, is seeking the final four years of the term held by Joseph Flores, who died a year ago.
Ms. Cubbon, an assistant county prosecutor since 1981, serves as supervisor of the prosecutor's office that oversees cases involving juveniles and senior citizens, so she, too, has extensive experience in the juvenile justice field. On balance, however, we prefer Judge Schaefer.
Likewise, both Tom Osowik, a Toledo Municipal Court judge, and veteran trial attorney Jack Zouhary present strong resumes in their race for a full six-year term on Common Pleas Court. Our choice is Judge Osowik, a Democrat who has served with distinction on the municipal court bench since 1991.
Cases in municipal court don't often require written opinions but Judge Osowik has 13 to his credit that have been published by the Ohio Supreme Court. That record suggests that he is up to the significantly greater legal scholarship required of a common pleas judge.
In a similar vein, we believe that Gary Cook should serve the remaining two years of the unexpired term of Judith Lanzinger, who was elected to the Sixth District Court of Appeals.
His opponent, Republican Patrick J. Foley, was appointed to the common pleas bench in February, 2003. Judge Foley demonstrated his commitment to the judiciary by coming out of retirement to accept the judgeship after a 35-year career as assistant U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio and as a military judge and JAG officer. That is a commendable record, but he faces a tough battle against Mr. Cook, a Democrat and a senior assistant county prosecutor for more than a decade.
Mr. Cook has been accused - sometimes unfairly, we think - of trading on the reputation of his father, Gene Cook, the late Toledo city councilman and longtime Toledo Mud Hens executive. The head of the county prosecutor's "cold case" team, Mr. Cook has attracted considerable acclaim on his own by gaining convictions in long-unsolved criminal matters. On balance, we believe his youth and energy make him better suited for the task at hand.
As a veteran trial attorney, Timothy Kuhlman has a broad range of experience that will serve him well in common pleas court. Mr. Kuhlman, a Republican, is our choice in his race for a six-year term against Judge Denise Dartt, of Toledo Municipal Court. A Democrat, Judge Dartt has been on the municipal court bench for 18 years, a little too long in our estimation.
Finally, we endorse incumbent James Jensen for a new six-year term. A seasoned lawyer who formerly served as assistant U.S. attorney, and a common pleas judge since 1995, Judge Jensen, a Republican, is active in a wide range of community activities, including tutoring children weekly for the past three years as part of the Ohio- Reads program.
In summary, The Blade endorsements for Lucas County Common Pleas Court are: Lynn Schaefer, for the juvenile division, and for the general division, Tom Osowik, Gary Cook, Timothy Kuhlman, and James Jensen.