Four candidates look to fill Plough’s vacant municipal court judge seat

Doug Gulasy

Thousands of cases flood court annually

The Portage County Municipal Court handles thousands of cases each year, ranging from criminal misdemeanors such as noise violations, to civil cases of $15,000 or less. Last year, the three municipal court judges heard a combined 30,000 cases.

Kent State students deal mainly with the Kent branch of the municipal court. Current Judge John Plough is not seeking re-election, leaving four candidates vying to fill his seat. The winner will take office Jan. 1, 2010.

Paul Brickner

Portage County municipal judge candidate, term beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

With more than 30 years of judicial experience, Paul Brickner has spent more time on the bench than his three opponents combined.

He believes that should give him the edge in the election Nov. 3.

“I think it (my experience) is extremely important because I come to the office ready to take my seat and start doing the job immediately,” said Brickner, a Kent resident. “I won’t need any on-the-job training.”

A licensed attorney since 1966, Brickner has been a federal administrative law judge for more than 20 years. Before that, he served for seven years as an appellate judge in the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

In addition, Brickner teaches law at the University of Akron and Cleveland State University and has been published more than 50 times in law journals.

“I like to quip that I’ve been published in law schools that I couldn’t get into, like Harvard and Columbia,” he said.

Because municipal court judges hear the most cases each year in Portage County, Brickner said it’s important that residents get someone experienced.

“A judge has to be fair and impartial, be a good listener and be able to weigh the evidence and the facts,” he said. “And that comes with experience.”

Becky Doherty

Portage County municipal judge candidate, term beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

Suffield resident Becky Doherty says she feels most comfortable in the courtroom and considers herself well-equipped to handle the heavy workload of the municipal court.

“You need somebody in that (judge) position who knows the court system, who knows how to deal with the lawyers and get those cases through the system effectively, efficiently and fairly for everybody,” she said. “It has to be handled by someone who knows what they’re doing.”

Doherty was assistant prosecutor in Summit County for 17 years, prosecuting violent crimes such as homicides, aggravated robberies and kidnappings.

She currently is in private practice, handling civil litigation and criminal defense, is law director for the village of Lakemore and teaches legal issues at the Kent State police academy.

Doherty said she wants to restore faith in the municipal court system, particularly among students. She is interested in putting together a program for first-time offenders in Portage County.

“I don’t want one mistake or one error in judgment to ruin a student’s life or ruin their ability to obtain an education,” she said. “Not to say they don’t need to learn and understand the ramifications of whatever they’ve done, but I also think, especially students, you need to be looked at with an eye toward, ‘What are they going to do in the future?'”

Tommie Jo Marsilio

Portage County municipal judge candidate, term beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

Tommie Jo Marsilio considers herself an outsider in Portage County politics.

In her mind, that’s a good thing, and it will help her in the election.

“I get phone calls, e-mails and people writing in through my Web site every day letting me know that they’re tired of the politics in Portage County and that they support somebody who’s going to stand up and make a difference,” she said.

Marsilio was fired Sept. 18 from her two-year job as assistant county prosecutor because of a statement made in one of her advertising proofs.

The proof said, “The ‘Good Old Boys’ say elect Kevin Poland.” Further down, it said Marsilio “is not a member of the Ravenna ‘Good Old Boys’ corruption club.”

Marsilio was fired by Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci for refusing to apologize to Poland, one of her opponents.

“When they tried to silence me by holding my job over my head, I put what was right ahead of even my job,” she said. “I hope that people will look at my action. Don’t take me at my word; look at my action.”

A lawyer for 11 years, Marsilio has served as chief hearing officer for Ohio, represented families and school districts in her private law firm and coordinated nationwide litigation as a member of a Cleveland law firm.

Kevin Poland

Portage County municipal judge candidate, term beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

Ravenna Mayor Kevin Poland has held a number of titles in his political and legal career. Now, he’d like to add municipal court judge to the list.

Poland has served as acting judge of the Portage County Municipal Court for more than 10 years and has held a private practice in Ravenna for 23 years. In addition, he was Portage County assistant prosecutor for just over a year and Ravenna City Council president for 15 years.

He believes his experience in a number of arenas makes him the right candidate for the seat.

“I certainly hope that if people look at the credentials of the candidates, I believe I am the most qualified,” Poland said. “And I would certainly hope that bears out in the results of the election.”

Poland said if elected, he hopes to improve the relationship the municipal court has with students and with the community at large.

“You need to have the confidence of the people that they’re going to be treated fairly and be treated with respect,” he said, “whether or not they’re a victim or whether or not they’re a defendant.”

Poland said he plans to stay involved in the community, no matter what happens in the election.

“I’ve been involved in my community all my life, not just for the last four months,” he said. “And I’ll be involved in community events in February, whether I am judge or not.”

Contact public affairs reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]