Though perhaps not meant maliciously, municipal courts are often referred to as the home of "cattle-call" justice, a place reminiscent of a busy bus station, where offenses ranging from prostitution to parking tickets are resolved on the fly. Take a number and get in line.
But such uncharitable views demean and diminish the important work that goes on there, work that requires the service of excellent and efficient judges. Accordingly, we believe Toledo voters should consider the qualifications of two appointed judges, Lynn Schaefer and Timothy Kuhlman, and one newcomer, Samuel J. Nugent, and elect all three.
Judge Schaefer is a relatively new judge but a good one by all accounts. She was appointed to the Municipal Court bench last March after losing in her bid last fall to retain her seat on the juvenile court bench.
She is a Republican with substantial support from labor, usually a good indicator of judicial fairness. Attorneys who have appeared before her consider her competent and ethical. She is opposed by Lourdes Santiago, a veteran of the city law department. After careful consideration, we believe Ms. Schaefer to be the better choice.
Judge Kuhlman is likewise a Republican appointee. He was named to the Municipal Court bench last January by Gov. Bob Taft to finish the term of Judge Denise Dartt, who moved to the Common Pleas Court bench. He now seeks a full six-year term of his own.
He is opposed by Paula Hicks-Hudson, best known for the difficulties associated with her service at the Lucas County Board of Elections. Despite that experience, she is a bright attorney who may have a future on the bench.
But on balance, we prefer Mr. Kuhlman, who offers a blend of relative youth, dedication to the task at hand, and a clear understanding of the responsibilities of a judge. We see no reason he should not have an opportunity to be of continued service.
The most intriguing of the three contested Municipal Court races is the three-way battle between Mr. Nugent, fellow Toledo attorney and City prosecutor Dan Pilrose, Jr., and former Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Christiansen. They seek the seat of retired Judge Mary Trimboli.
Mr. Nugent is the City of Toledo law department's senior attorney in the litigation section, and he has been a criminal prosecutor, which means he would bring substantial civil and criminal case experience to the bench. His impressive resume also includes several years in the office of the Ohio attorney general, both as a special counsel and an assistant A.G. representing the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
Mr. Pilrose has considerable experience as an attorney handling cases in Municipal Court, but his credentials don't match Mr. Nugent's.
Mr. Christiansen can point to his 22 years as a judge on Common Pleas Court, a tenure that ended when he lost his bid for a seat on the Sixth District Court of Appeals last year to Judge William Skow. We applaud his long service to Lucas County but believe the qualifications and fresh energy of Mr. Nugent are what this very busy court needs.
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