Seven candidates seeking election in three contested races for Toledo Municipal Court exchanged their ideas on law and court-related topics during a forum last night.
The forum, sponsored by the Toledo-Lucas County League of Women Voters and the Greater Toledo Urban League Young Professionals, attracted an audience of about 25 people to the University of Toledo Law Center auditorium.
A wide range of questions was asked of the candidates during the 90-minute program, including their thoughts on diversity in the court system, whether judges should legislate from the bench, and the appropriate way for judges to handle ethical issues.
Asked about cases that caused lost sleep, Robert Christiansen, a former Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge, said deciding the fate of defendants in death-penalty cases was troubling. "You never get used to something like that," he said.
A Republican, Mr. Christiansen, 57, stepped down from Common Pleas Court last year to make an unsuccessful bid for the 6th District Court of Appeals. He is running against Samuel Nugent, the endorsed candidate of lucascountydemocrats.org, and Daniel Pilrose, Jr., a city prosecutor. They are running for a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Mary Grace Trimboli.
On the same question, Mr. Nugent, 53, a senior litigation attorney for the city law department, said effective trial strategies have come to him at night, and he takes a note pad to bed so he can record the ideas.
When asked about the steps they would take to report the misconduct of an attorney in a case, the candidates provided similar answers about reporting the incident to the local Bar Association.
Mr. Pilrose, 56, a Democrat, responded that he would abide by the canons of the state Supreme Court and alert the Bar Association of the violation.
Lynn Schaefer, a Republican, told the audience about her experience as a magistrate when she once persuaded an attorney to remove himself because of a conflict of interest.
Ms. Schaefer, 56, who was appointed to the municipal court bench in March, is running against Lourdes Santiago, a staff attorney with the city law department.
When faced with the question about ethical issues, Ms. Santiago said lawyers have an obligation to report questionable activities, and younger attorneys should be mentored to prevent them from engaging in unethical practices.
A Democrat, Ms. Santiago, 56, has been with the city for 23 years and served as interim director for several departments.
Timothy Kuhlman, an attorney in private practice until he was appointed municipal court judge in February, is being challenged by Paula Hicks-Hudson, who is a staff attorney for the city law department.
Diana Patton, a vice president of the local Urban League who moderated the program, asked each candidate about their views on diversity in courts.
Mr. Kuhlham, 39, said improving diversity is important because the rules and values used to govern society stem from decisions made in the court system. "Everybody that looks the same can't properly apply justice," said Mr. Kuhlman, a Republican.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson, a Democrat, said the cultural and racial makeup of the judges and lawyers should reflect the community.