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Published: Monday, 10/18/2010

Yarbrough hopes to oust incumbent Cosme in 6th District appellate court

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Standing at Cherry Street and Spielbusch Avenue, the Sixth District Court of Appeals building is one in which few area residents ever will go.

But within its walls, the appellate court judges review both civil and criminal cases, making it the "court of last resort" for many who find themselves in the judicial process.

Looking to retain her seat as one of five judges on the Sixth District Court of Appeals, Judge Keila Cosme is running as the Democratic incumbent on the November ballot.

Hoping to unseat her is Judge Stephen Yarbrough, a Republican, who made it to the ballot after garnering the most votes in a three-way race during the May primary election.

The appeals court hears cases from the municipal and county courts in Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties. Both candidates are vying for the six-year term that begins Feb. 9.

Judge Cosme, 41, of Sylvania Township is a 1990 graduate of Boston University and a 1994 graduate of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. A native of Puerto Rico who came to the United States when she was 17, she joined the Court of Appeals when Gov. Ted Strickland appointed her Oct. 30, 2009, to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Judge William Skow.

Selected from a pool of several candidates, Judge Cosme's appointment to the bench marked the first time a Hispanic-American was named to an Ohio appellate court.

Judge Cosme said it is not just her ethnicity but her entire background that brings a different perspective to the appellate court.

She brings "what I have done and where I have been" with her when reviewing cases, she said.

"The judicial process works because people respect the decisions that the court makes," Judge Cosme said. "What strengthens the respect people have in the decision, whether the court rules in their favor or not, is that the court is representative of the community in which they live."

Judge Cosme said experience is also important, adding that she has 16 years of practicing law, including representing both large corporations and "the little guy."

She assumed the job as an appellate judge on Nov. 16. At that time, she severed all ties with the law firm she started in 2001 with her husband, Joseph D'Angelo, and state Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon), during which she predominantly practiced civil litigation. Judge Cosme and her husband have two sons.

"It is a huge responsibility and it needs to be done with fairness and integrity," she said.

"Anything less than that would be unacceptable to the community at large."

Opposing Judge Cosme on the ballot is Judge Yarbrough, who has worked for several years as a visiting judge across Ohio.

"What the race is about to me is experience and serving the eight counties of northwest Ohio," he said. "I think I bring experience that's broad, geographically and subject-matterwise, with over 20 years of experience."

Judge Yarbrough, 64, of Sylvania, was elected to Toledo City Council in 1986 and 1988, Domestic Relations Court in 1989, and Common Pleas Court in 1993.

He resigned from Common Pleas Court in 1995 to assume the chairmanship of the Lucas County Republican Party. He left later that year for an appointment to the state Senate that lasted about one year.

Since then, he has worked as a visiting judge and serves as a mediator.

Judge Yarbrough said he brings the experience of presiding over cases in many counties as well as a background in domestic relations and juvenile courts.

"I tell the people that I've made a covenant with the voters, to protect their constitutional rights and follow the law," said Judge Yarbrough, a graduate of both the University of Toledo and its college of law.

Endorsed by local police unions and recommended highly by his peers in the Toledo Bar Association, Judge Yarbrough said he is proud of the support he has received from those groups who come to the courts seeking justice for both victims and defendants.

"I faced issues with all types of people at all levels of the court. I've dealt with farmers in Williams County, I've dealt with factory workers in Toledo, I've dealt with single mothers in Huron County," he added. "There's no group that I haven't dealt with in my experience."

Judge Yarbrough is married with four children and 10 grandchildren.

Also on the November ballot is Judge Mark Pietrykowski, who is running unopposed to maintain his seat on the appellate bench.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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