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Published: Wednesday, 3/7/2012

Jensen wins GOP race for appeals bench

Veteran county jurist in line for seat not sought by Democrats

BLADE STAFF

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Jensen is the Republican party's apparent choice for an open seat on the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals -- a seat for which no Democrat filed to run.

Unofficial results showed Judge Jensen, a 17-year veteran of the county bench, carrying just three of the appellate district's eight counties in the primary race against Toledo Municipal Court Judge Robert Christiansen, but his 2,300-vote margin in Lucas County offset Mr. Christiansen's majorities in smaller neighboring counties.

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The two were vying to succeed incumbent Peter Handwork, a Republican who was prohibited because of his age from seeking re-election to the five-judge panel that hears appeals from common pleas, municipal, and juvenile courts in Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties.

Barring a late-organizing independent or write-in campaign, Judge Jensen will be unopposed for the seat in the Nov. 6 general election.

Most recently re-elected to common pleas court in 2010, Judge Jensen, 69, had cited his 40-year legal career and support from Toledo's legal community during the appellate-court campaign.

The appeals court, he said, "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 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.

Judge Christiansen, 63, entered the primary race fresh off a successful re-election campaign to municipal court in 2011. He touted his reputation as a "tough-on-crime" judge who, in particular, guaranteed jail time for anyone convicted of preying on old people or children.

Judge Christiansen was first appointed to municipal court in 1981, but lost at the polls later that year. He then was appointed to county court in 1983 to start a 22-year tenure as a common pleas judge. He then was elected to municipal court in 2005.

Judge Christiansen previously ran for the appeals court in 2004 and 2010, losing in the 2004 general election to William Skow, a Democrat, and in the 2010 Republican primary to Stephen Yarbrough, who went on to win the general election.



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