Republicans get to pick. Democrats get to watch.
Tuesday’s primary election will see two highly regarded GOP candidates, Lawrence Huffman and Terri Kohlrieser, seeking the position of retiring Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge David Cheney. Local Democrats took themselves out of the decision-making by failing to even place a name on the ballot.
The Lima News does not endorse candidates. However, we will address key points in the race that voters need to consider. Five topics appear below:
1) What is the defining issue between the two candidates?
Experience. Both claim their legal work makes them better qualified for the job.
Kohlrieser has a stronger background in criminal law. She has been a rising star in the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office, where she has worked for more than a decade. She’s in the courtroom nearly every day and has earned a reputation for her keen understanding of the law, being tenacious and always being prepared. Her civil experience mostly comes prior to working for the prosecutor’s office. She also was a teaching assistant in civil law while attending Ohio Northern University.
Huffman’s 36 years of practicing law is twice that of Kohlrieser’s, although his experience is primarily with civil court matters. He’s been involved in civil jury trials, personal injury cases, trust litigation cases and civil and corporate litigation cases. He also has represented clients in U.S. district court and before the Third District Court of Appeals. His work on criminal cases, however, is limited. Huffman has been the attorney of record on just one felony criminal case in Allen County over the past 17-plus years. He’s done limited criminal cases outside the county.
2) What percentage of a judge’s time is typically spent on criminal and civil cases?
It’s a moving target. The Lima News looked at last year’s court docket and found 702 civil cases and 440 criminal cases filed through Common Pleas Court. Legal experts said, however, anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of a judge’s time is spent on criminal cases, but they said that can change. As one former judge noted, during the foreclosure crisis, a substantial amount of time was spent on civil cases.
3) Wouldn’t a judge who came out of the the prosecutor’s office tend to favor the prosecution, or at least, be left to deal with the “appearance of impropriety?”
We don’t buy it. Too many of the best judges in the area have come out of the prosecutor’s office to make such a claim. Examples: Judges Reed, Warren, Basinger and Shaw, to name a few.
4) What they’ve said:
• Huffman on his law practice and experience: “For me, it’s about representing clients, advising them of what they should do or shouldn’t do and what the law can or cannot do for them. For my opponent to claim she has more experience is simply inaccurate. If a person has never represented anyone in a civil trial, it’s not an accurate example of ‘extensive’ experience.”
• Kohlrieser on experience vs. longevity: “Misdemeanor criminal experience is not remotely the same as felony experience. When it comes to common pleas court, a general experience is not sufficient, because of how technical it is and how high the stakes are.”
• Huffman on perceptions: “I’m sure she believes she will be able to be fair and impartial. But that’s separate from the ‘appearance’ of impropriety. … She’s never addressed the issue.”
• Kohlrieser on perceptions: “Let me make this clear — with no exceptions — if I’m on the bench, I am going to do what I believe the law requires. I’m going to follow the law and everyone in the prosecutor’s office knows that.”
5) Their background:
Huffman is from a family of highly-respected lawyers. He studied law at Xavier University and attended Ohio Northern University, where he received his bachelor’s and juris doctorate degrees. He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, a member of the National Rifle Association, a local military historian and a member of Heartbeat of Lima.
Kohlrieser graduated magna cum laude from University of Toledo in 1998 and received her juris doctorate from Ohio Northern University in 2001. She was named last year as the Outstanding Assistant Prosecutor of the Year by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association. Her father was a Purple Heart-honored Vietnam veteran, and her mother was waitress with a 10th grade education. Her parents separated when Terri was in grade school, and it was during that time her mother’s strength and determination made an impact on her. In college, Kohlrieser held a full-time job to help pay for her education.