Governor plans to appoint new judge to municipal court by mid-February

Anne-Margaret Sobota

Gov. Bob Taft is preparing to appoint a new judge to the Portage County Municipal Court to fill the vacancy left by former judge Laurie Pittman, who was elected to the Portage County Court of Common Pleas last November.

The second of the two candidates submitted to the governor’s office will be interviewed today and the governor will make his announcement by mid-February, said David Payne of the Office of Boards and Commissions.

Louis Bertrand and William Nome were chosen by a screening committee appointed in December by Norman Sandvoss, chairman of the Portage County Republican Party.

Sandvoss said any Republican lawyer with at least six years of trial experience could apply. The seven-person screening committee then met Jan. 12 to review the applicants’ resumes and questionnaires before sending the two names on to the governor’s office.

Sandvoss said there were not many applicants because there are so few Republicans in Portage County.

“You’re also asking them to make a big sacrifice because you’re essentially asking them to give up their law practice,” Sandvoss added.

The appointee will hold the seat until November when they will have to run again to re-attain the seat, Sandvoss said.

The municipal court is a non-partisan race, but mid-term appointments generally follow the party of the sitting governor, he said. Democrats could choose to send their own recommendations to the governor.

Louis Bertrand has been practicing law for 37 years and is one of three board-certified trial lawyers in the county.

Bertrand said if appointed, it will be difficult to leave his practice but believes his experience as a trial lawyer will help him transition into the position. He has been trying cases in the municipal court since 1968, he said.

William Nome could not be reached for comment.

Contact public affairs reporter Anne-Margaret Sobota at [email protected].