Office: Zanesville Municipal Court
Residence: Kent, OH
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/stephenjsmithforjudge;
Occupation: Municipal Court Magistrate
Education: J.D. University of Toledo, B.B.A. in Accounting, Kent State University
Work Experience: 4.5 yrs Municipal Court Magistrate; Self-Employed 22+ yrs. private law practice including extensive municipal court caseload, and 15 yrs. I sat regularly as an acting judge in the municipal court for each of the eight (8) municipal court judges in Portage County from 1999 to 2014.
Family: Single, one adult child
Affiliations: Ohio State Bar Association; Portage County Bar Association & past president; Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, past member; Fraternal Order of Police Associate; Knights of Columbus; St. Patrick church member; St. Patrick Endowment Committee, past board member; Tri-County Alzheimer’s Association, past board member
Endorsements: Jerry T. Fiala, Kent Mayor; Frank Seman, Ravenna Mayor; Lou Bertrand, Hiram Mayor; Gwen Rosenberg, Kent City Council; Michael DeLeone, Kent City Council; Roger B. Sidoti, Kent City Council & Retired Theodore Roosevelt Principal; Heidi L. Shaffer, Kent City Council; Robin G. Turner, Kent City Council; Rebekah Wright Kulis, Kent City School Board; Ryan S. Ferrera, Kent City School Board; Pamela Brown Ferguson, Kent City School Board
Bar Association Ratings: Portage County Bar Association did not rate candidates for this election
(1) List your judicial experience (courts and years):
I have four and one-half (4.5) years experience as full-time Magistrate in the Portage County Municipal Court hearing all types of civil cases. I have also presided over traffic court. As the Magistrate, I helped create Portage County’s first Supreme Court Certified specialized docket. The court is known as the STAR Court and is designed to help people with mental health issues by assisting them with obtaining appropriate services. We designed this court to reduce contact with law enforcement and the courts, and to more effectively use the county resources related to jail and probation as it affects those with mental health issues. Judge Oswick presides over the STAR Court. In her absence, I preside over this specialized court docket. I have also served for fifteen (15) years as acting judge for each of the eight (8) municipal judges from 1999 to 2014. During my time on the bench, I have presided over thousands of criminal cases and thousands of civil cases.
(2) What about your non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge?
For 22 years I had my own private law firm. During that time, I gained immeasurable experience working with those in need of help interfacing with the legal system. This experience was critical in formulating my passion for insuring all parties were treated with dignity and respect. If I am elected as Municipal Judge of Portage County, each litigant will receive a fair adjudication on the facts and applicable law. I represented individuals with diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. These clients included lifelong residents of Portage County, those passing through for work, as well as people from various foreign countries studying and/or working at local universities. My representation of various businesses and individuals in civil matters included working with the transportation industry, construction companies, sales companies, landlords and tenants in residential and commercial settings, professional association dissolution and winding up, partnership dissolution, formation of corporations and limited liability companies, real property transfer and purchase agreements, property division, land installment contracts, and business transfers. The extent and breadth of my legal experience in municipal court makes me uniquely qualified to be a Municipal Court Judge. My practice included a large criminal caseload encompassing all aspects of municipal criminal cases as well as common pleas cases, and a wide variety of municipal civil cases. My municipal civil practice included contract law, landlord-tenant, debt collection, consumer sales practices, replevin, conversion and bailments, construction cases, and mechanics and artisan liens.
(3) Why are you running for this particular court seat?
I am running for Portage County Municipal Court Judge to serve the people of Portage County. My 15 years as an acting judge and 4.5 years as a full-time magistrate have taught me how much I enjoy the job and how well suited I am for the position. I believe I will be an asset to the people of Portage County as the next Municipal Court Judge. I am uniquely qualified for this position due to my background, experience, knowledge and temperament. I enjoy learning and the crux of the legal profession is continual learning. As a judge, you learn from appellate courts, attorneys, as well as the parties, witnesses, victims, advocates, and all others who appear before you. I believe our legal system is what binds together our mutual experience living in a democratic society. This system provides the underpinnings of fairness and civil interaction. When strong opinions collide, it is our justice system that establishes the pathway for our society to continue to move forward and heal. I embrace this process and want to be a part of it. There are instances when people are not happy with the results and decisions of a court. In my experience, if people feel they have been heard and have had a fair opportunity to present their case, they are much more inclined to accept the decision of the court. These experiences foster the publicâ€™s confidence in the judicial system, which in turn, increases its effectiveness. It is my belief that the most effective attorneys are those who enjoy helping people. As a judge, you are helping the entire county by providing a forum – the court – where civil grievances can be brought and heard in a fair and impartial manner, and where criminal charges can be addressed and tried in a fair and objective setting. Seeking to provide a fair tribunal and ultimately, to the best my ability, to provide justice for those who appear before me is incredibly rewarding and something I can continue to do in an expanded role for the people of Portage County as their Municipal Court Judge. I take this charge most seriously, and my commitment will be unwavering.