OTTAWA — Two men with vast experience in legal matters are seeking to become the next probate/juvenile court judge in Putnam County.
Michael Borer, the incumbent, is being challenged by Matthew Cunningham, who serves as a magistrate in the Findlay Municipal Court in addition to running a family law practice.
The race is a non-partisan contest, although Borer is a registered Democrat and Cunningham is a former official of the county Republican party.
Borer has held a seat on the bench since 2011, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Daniel Gerschultz. He ran unopposed in 2012 to fill the unexpired term and in 2014 staved off a primary challenge from Gary Lammers on his way to his first full, six-year term.
Borer lists his experience in presiding over nearly 10,000 juvenile and probate cases as a selling point to voters. “I’ve handled a full ranges of criminal cases involving juveniles — from murder to traffic cases — and every type of case you can imagine on the probate side. I hope my experience matters to the people of this county,” he said
Borer, 60, said it is important to have someone on the bench with experience in addressing child abuse and neglect cases armed with knowledge of the severity of those types of cases.
“There are a lot of challenges to determine what is in the best interest of children,” Borer said.
Borer said he is the only judge in Putnam County and the only candidate in this race who is certified to sit on all three courts: common pleas, juvenile and municipal.
“I got certified as a municipal court judge so I can sit in on cases should the need arise,” Borer said. “I did it to be helpful and to benefit the county.”
During his time on the bench he was worked with others to develop innovative programs for juveniles, including the Make the Grade program to assist young offenders with their school work and a mock interview program to assist offenders as they prepare to enter the workforce.
“I truly enjoy working with the kids,” Borer said.
Cunningham, 48, is making his first run at elected office. He cited his 21 years of legal work on both sides of the bench as the key to his candidacy.
Cunningham’s family has practiced law in Putnam County since 1925, from his grandfather, Claud Recker, to his father and mother, Paul and Ann Recker Cunningham. Ann Cunningham served as judge of what is now the county’s municipal court from 1985 until 2005.
In 2002 Matthew Cunningham took over the day-to-day operation of the family law firm. In October 2017 he accepted an appointment to serve two days a week as a magistrate in Findlay Municipal Court.
“I’ve had 21 years of working with families and juveniles in my private practice and also from the bench as a magistrate. I’ve done a lot of probate work — adoptions, guardianships, drafting trusts — and on the juvenile side I’ve represented the parents of juveniles,” Cunningham said. “Those cases involving juveniles can be very emotional. I’ve seen how the court can disrupt a family and I know those type of cases need to be handled with kid gloves.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m running. I’ve grown up with the law my entire life and I have a unique combination of private practice and judicial experience.”