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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2010

Top county Democrat blasts GOP judge


The head of the Lucas County Democratic Party came down hard Wednesday against the Republican in the race for the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, unearthing dirt from newspaper stories and scolding him for driving with a lead foot.

Speaking at a news conference outside Democratic headquarters, Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said visiting Judge Stephen Yarbrough, 64, of Sylvania, is unfit to serve on the appeals court. He urged voters to instead retain Democrat Keila Cosme for the seat.

The party chairman rattled off a list of claims against Judge Yarbrough, including that he hasn't completed the full terms of past public offices and that he had to repay the state $2,340 in 2001 for overbillings as a visiting judge.

"I want [voters] to know this person, not once, not twice, but several times has violated the trust of the people who put him into positions," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

Judge Cosme was not at the news conference and could not be reached. She was appointed last October by Gov. Ted Strickland upon the death of Judge William Skow.

The source for nearly all of Mr. Rothenbuhler's rebukes were past Blade stories. Citing the Web site noethics.net, he chided Judge Yarbrough for receiving at least 11 traffic tickets: 10 for speeding and one $35 fine for a license plate display violation.

Judge Yarbrough responded by defending his 22 years of experience as a judge. "This race is not about old news stories or about traffic offenses," he said, "it's about who is the most qualified person to be in the court of appeals, who will uphold the constitutional rights if elected, and I think that's me."

He didn't dispute the traffic ticket accusations, citing the travel involved in being a visiting judge. "I drive 40,000 miles a year and I work in 40 counties," he said.

Judge Yarbrough was elected to Toledo City Council in 1986 and 1988, Domestic Relations Court in 1989, and Common Pleas Court in 1993.

Mr. Rothenbuhler criticized him for "abandoning the voters" by leaving his second term on council to serve on the bench.

Judge Yarbrough resigned from Common Pleas Court in 1995 to become chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party. He resigned as chairman in the fall of 1995 after his appointment to the state Senate, which lasted about a year.

He abandoned plans to run for a full term in the Senate after the disclosure that he didn't live within his 2nd Senate District.

Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County GOP, said Judge Yarbrough is more experienced than Judge Cosme, and would make a tough yet fair addition to the court.

"She's never served one day as an elected judge; she was a political appointment and is not qualified," Mr. Stainbrook said.

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