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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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The Oregon Republican Club held the first-ever Oregon Municipal Judge Candidate Forum Sept. 7 at the Oregon Municipal Complex. 

Club President Diana Skaff and Vice President Lynn Gibbs were pleased with the turnout, which included community members, current court staff, and family and supporters of each of the candidates.

The club’s goal for the event was to help voters get informed and meet the four candidates for Oregon Municipal Judge ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

Attorney Jeff Lydy served as moderator. “I think that you should all be very pleased – I think we have four very qualified people; Whoever wins the election, I think will probably do a great job for Oregon,” he said. 

The candidates – Scott Winckowski, Lou Kovacs, Anne Brossia and Clint Wasserman – were each given two minutes to answer questions which were pre-selected by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and given to candidates in advance.

Questions included topics of knowledge, character and job effectiveness. Part of a city municipal judge’s job is management, including overseeing staff and budget. With cost always being a concern, the candidates were asked how they would reduce costs the court faces.

Brossia believes converting to electronic record-keeping and utilizing special online databases for law practitioners could help the court system save money. 

Kovacs proposed better management of civil cases; making sure they are handled quickly and not left open too long through better scheduling and creating tighter deadlines. 

Both Winckowski and Wasserman focused on the idea of cutting incarceration costs. Winckowski favors alternatives to jail, such as house arrest and work release programs as a means to cut spending.

“The court is a service to the community; it’s not a business,” Wasserman said. “It doesn’t maximize profits that minimize expenses. It protects the community – it’s where the community can go to find justice.”

When asked if they believed there’s such a thing as a “victimless” crime, Winckowski, Brossia and Wasserman all answered no. 

Kovacs, interpreting the question as asking whether there is “a victim on the other side,” answered yes, giving drug abuse, possession of drugs, underage consumption, and prostitution, among other scenarios as examples.

“Somewhere down the line, whether it be shoplifting, drug abuse, drug paraphernalia – somebody suffers, even if it’s not the defendant; somebody’s going to suffer,” Brossia countered.

 

Hate crimes, free speech

The candidates were also questioned about hate crimes and the challenge of balancing rights to free speech and controlling offensive activity. Hate crimes cases are typically heard in federal courts, but each candidate agreed that if speech or activities incite violence, speech must be censored. 

“There is no freedom of speech if the speech poses a danger to the community,” Kovacs said.

Upon arrival, audience members could write a question for the candidates, which were read by Lydy after the first round of questions. 

One audience member asked candidates to address the opioid crisis that’s sweeping Ohio and the rest the nation. Kovacs discussed sentences a judge can carry out in cases of drug addiction, including probation and mandatory treatment for offenders.

Having seen patients with drug addictions as a nurse, Brossia said she did not believe these drug offenders should be able to plea down to a lesser sentence.

“The problem needs to be hit head-on and fast,” Brossia said.

“This is a community-wide problem,” Wasserman said, encouraging the audience to view his full plan for combating the epidemic on his Facebook page. “Nobody is not worth saving,” he added.

Winckowski spoke about the importance of educating children in the city’s schools, noting he believes the judge and judge’s office should have more communication with the schools.

“By the time they get to the municipal court, there isn’t much we can do,” he said. “We can try to stop the people who are supplying the drugs. We can try to stop the people who are bringing the drugs here and giving it to them. But usually by the time it gets to us, the court, that person who has drug abused is so addicted that – I don’t want to say they’re a lost cause – but they’re on their way.”


Confidence, bullying

The candidates spoke about increasing community confidence in the Oregon Municipal Court.

“The important thing is that everyone that comes into this court feels that they’ve had an opportunity to be heard, and that justice rules along quickly,” Kovacs said.

The role of politics and political affiliation in the judicial race was questioned. Though the position of judge is non-partisan, political parties can endorse candidates. Among the four candidates, Wasserman is the only one with a political affiliation; the Democratic Party endorses him.

While the candidates were spilt about whether it is okay for a judicial candidate to be endorsed by a political party, it was unanimous that personal or public political affiliations should not affect an individual when acting as a judge.

Division also arose over the issue of the court’s role in preventing bullying through community outreach. Winckowski and Kovacs encouraged the idea of educating the community’s youth about the legal consequences that bullying can have. 

Wasserman added that elected officials need to be leaders and role models. Brossia suggested the issue of bullying is something that should be addressed by parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Despite the number of serious and weighty topics being addressed, the forum took a lighter turn when an audience member asked candidates how they compared to a famous TV judge.

Laughter burst out as Lydy read, “Which of you is most like Judge Judy?”

Forum organizers expressed the hope that attendees left the forum having a better understanding of the candidates.

“I think the community here in Oregon can be proud to say that these four people represent candidates for the judicial and Oregon Municipal bench. I think no matter who’s elected, Oregon will be proud of who is elected.” Winckowski said.

 

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