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Published: Sunday, 3/4/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

2 Republican judges seek spot on appellate court

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Robert Christiansen, judge, Lucas County Municipal Court. Robert Christiansen, judge, Lucas County Municipal Court.
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Two longtime and well-known Lucas County judges face each other in the Republican primary election Tuesday for a higher court.

Judge James Jensen. Judge James Jensen.
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Judge Robert Christiansen, fresh off his re-election last year to Toledo Municipal Court, and Judge James Jensen, having been re-elected to a Lucas County Common Pleas Court seat in 2010, are vying for an open seat on the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals.

The court consists of five judges who hear appeals from common pleas, juvenile, and municipal courts in Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties.

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Incumbent Peter Handwork, a Republican, was prohibited because of his age from seeking re-election. No Democrat filed to run for the seat.

Judge Christiansen, 63, was re-elected to Toledo Municipal Court with 58 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election against Democrat John Coble.

He has a long career as a jurist. In 1981, he was appointed to Toledo Municipal Court and unsuccessfully ran for the court that year. In 1983, he was appointed to Lucas County Common Pleas Court and successively elected to terms that total 22 years of service.

Judge Christiansen of West Toledo ran for the appeals court in 2004 and 2010. In 2004, he was defeated in the general election by the William Skow, a Democrat.

In 2010, he was defeated in the Republican primary by Stephen Yarbrough, who went on to win the general election.

Judge Christiansen was elected to the municipal bench in 2005.

"Unlike my opponent, I have served in both courts, and I have experience in both courts," he said. "I have extensive experience in the probate court. When I was a visiting judge, I also heard domestic relations cases -- not here, but in other counties, so I have what I think is a unique breadth of experience in all the different courts that eventually lead to the court of appeals.

Judge Christiansen said he has a reputation, especially among repeat offenders and defense attorneys.

"I am known here as a tough-on-crime judge," he said. "I am very harsh on men who are convicted of hitting a woman; I am very harsh on people who are convicted of picking on old people; I am very harsh on people who are convicted of picking on children. I don't like bullies, I don't like the strong picking on the weak. There is no probation in those cases with me -- you go to jail."

Judge Jensen, 69, was appointed to Lucas County Common Pleas Court in 1995 and elected in 1996. He was re-elected against an opponent in 2004.

He is a former assistant U.S. attorney, served on Ohio Supreme Court task forces that proposed reforms of the state's jury system and code of judicial conduct, and was a mentor to new judges and an instructor in the University of Toledo's law school.

"I have been practicing in the legal profession for 40 years, the last 17 years in the common pleas court," Judge Jensen said.

"If you were to look at the Toledo Bar Association member polls they do -- and they do them everywhere -- the members of the Toledo Bar Association when I was up for election in 2010, I had an over 98 percent recommendation."

In 2004, when he was opposed by Democratic challenger James Vail, the same poll recommended him with more than 97 percent, Judge Jensen said.

"[Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals] is an extremely important seat when you understand less than 1 percent of the cases that are appealed in these eight counties go up to the Supreme Court, so the appeals court is the last court of resort for these," Judge Jensen said. "I have always had a passion for the law and I have a respect for the judiciary and these seats need someone with that type of interest in the law and the importance it plays in the eight-county area."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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