WILMINGTON — Odds are that if you go to court locally, it will be Clinton County Municipal Court. And Republican Mike Daugherty and independent Sharon A. Kornman believe each is best to preside over the court and its misdemeanor criminal, civil and traffic cases.
Voters will decide whether they agree with Kornman or Daugherty on Nov. 3.
Both candidates were asked written questions from the News Journal to share their positions and experience with voters.
“Clinton County people are more familiar with municipal court than any other court in the county,” Kornman wrote about why she wanted to be judge. “Decisions made there such as traffic matters, small claims, landlord-tenant disputes and criminal acts impact not only that person but his or her whole family.”
Kornman went on to say that her 20 years’ experience in law in multiple courts “makes me uniquely qualified to sit on this bench with knowledge and integrity. … I will be a judge who will uphold the law, protect the Constitution and treat all those who appear in court with proper respect and appropriate compassion.”
Daugherty said he is fair, compassionate, empathetic, has good sense and works for the people.
“I hold them to a fair standard of conduct, but I realize that I am the neighbor of every person in my court,” he wrote. “I am not better than them. My job is to make sure that their cases are decided correctly, quickly and that they do not linger on forever.”
Daugherty said his roots are in Clinton County, from his education to his children.
“My decisions are guided by those values common to the people here – faith, family and fairness,” he wrote. “Every day I pray for the wisdom to make the kinds of decisions which will benefit our community as a whole.”
If elected judge, Daugherty said he would ensure crimes have consequences, but also protect the rights of the accused.
“Shortly after taking office, I began sentencing convicted shoplifters to spend a day or two in jail, rather than suspending a large amount of jail and having no real consequences for their actions,” Daugherty wrote. “Repeat offenders do more jail time. There must be consequences.”
On the other hand, Daugherty said, he ensures no one is convicted unless he is convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” by evidence and prosecutors.
Kornman wrote, “to protect and serve is the motto of law enforcement, not the court. If a crime is charged, then I will apply the law to the facts and rule and sentence accordingly.”
Kornman believes she is “best qualified” to serve as judge due to her more than 20 years’ legal experience defending misdemeanor and felony criminal charges as both a privately practicing attorney and as a public defender and working civil cases. She said she’s substituted for the former municipal court prosecutor and has appeared before the Court of Appeals.
Daugherty said he has 20 years’ experience, worked as municipal prosecutor, public defender and litigated civil cases and, as appointed judge, has presided over more than 2,000 cases, including felony hearings, operating a vehicle under the influence, and other criminal, traffic and civil cases.
Daugherty said he takes drunk driving seriously and has increased use of ignition interlock devices for those who operate a vehicle impaired.
Those devices test drivers for alcohol before allowing their vehicles to start.
“Repeat OVI offenders go to jail,” he wrote. “We give some offenders the opportunity, as provided by law, to do a lockdown treatment program instead of jail, but sometimes a person needs jail to get the message that drunk driving is unacceptable.”
Kornman wrote that the law mandates certain sentencing guidelines for repeat OVI offenders.
“I will apply the law fairly and impartially,” she wrote. “I will look at all the facts when sentencing and utilize the option available to me.”
In place of fines and incarceration, municipal judges can impose alternative sentences, such as community service or a diversion program.
Kornman wrote, “The most effective rehabilitation occurs when the underlying issue is addressed and the person is motivated to change.”
She said she’ll consider alternatives that are appropriate for each situation and which may include counseling, anger management, domestic violence programs and community service “as well as other effective options which encourage rehabilitation.”
Daugherty said he uses alternative sentencing frequently with two recent programs – one for first-time theft offenders and another for first-time underage consumption offenders. Both programs are funded by the offenders and require the participants to pay any restitution and show up to work.
Using the program, offenders picked up litter on the Route 73 bypass, built and cleaned stalls for an animal rescue in Blanchester and will shovel snow from city sidewalks.
A third alternative he uses is an apology letter.
“When a person does wrong, he or she should apologize to the victim,” Daugherty wrote, adding that probation officers make sure nothing inappropriate is written. “We are finding that the act of apology helps offenders understand why their behavior is wrong, and we hope that it helps prevent them from doing it again.”
Daugherty said as the appointed judge he’s already cut spending in 2015 to below what was spent in 2014, and he has requested a $1,162,000 budget equal to 2015 spending levels.
He also said he’s found ways to decrease local payroll by having the magistrate work two days a month as acting judge, the salary of which is paid partially by the Ohio Supreme Court.
“We account carefully for every penny, and constantly look for ways to cut costs while improving public service,” Daugherty wrote. Some of those ways include community service and imposing monthly probation fees, which pay for drug tests, education programs and other probation materials.
“The court represents one of the three branches of government that is the core of our system of governance,” Kornman wrote. “It is not a revenue generating agency.”
The court, she wrote, “is at this time self-sustaining as it brings in more than it costs to run. Those excess funds are distributed to our community and state.”
She said she hopes to leverage her business degree and experience to minimize fixed expenses and monitor variable ones to keep the court within its budget.
Kornman said she has voted for the person she believes to be the best candidate, rather than a party, for the position.
“As a judicial candidate I have a special obligation to ensure the judicial system is fair, impartial and free from partisanship,” she wrote. “Further, I must apply and uphold the law without regard to my personal views. Running as an independent removes the political party specter from my candidacy and endorses my position as a judge who will keep politics off of the bench.”
Daugherty said he’s a Republican “because I believe the greatest strength of our nation lies in the individual’s right to pursue life, liberty and happiness,” as well as Constitutional freedoms, lower taxes, smaller government that is close to the people and because compassion at the personal, family, faith and community level is the nation’s “cornerstone.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.