Home Law Candidates for Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge face-off in debate

Candidates for Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge face-off in debate

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The candidates for the Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge position went head-to-head Tuesday night in a public forum debate.

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Athens County and the Athens Public Library, the public forum style debate allowed Incumbent Judge George McCarthy and challenger Herman Carson to talk about what they plan on bringing to this position.

Carson gave his opening statement first after a coin was flipped to decide. He talked about his history practicing law in Athens County for almost 34 years with 28 of those years as a trial attorney in private practice doing both civil and criminal trial work of all kinds.

He was also an acting judge for Athens County Municipal Court for 22 years during that period.

“As an acting judge I received judicial training from the Ohio Supreme Court and had the same judicial authority to preside over cases as the elected judge, including presiding over jury trials,” Carson said.

For the last five years he has been the Assistant Ohio Public Defender, assigned to multi-county branch offices, for the Ohio Public Defender’s office, which is based here in Athens. “As an Assistant Public Defender I have appeared in Common Pleas Court on an almost daily basis,” Carson said.

“I’ve experienced a wide array of ways to run a courtroom properly and also a number ways to not run one properly. That experience would serve me well as Common Pleas Court Judge for Athens County.”

He continued on to explain why his experience would help him give back to Athens County.

McCarthy began his statement by explaining how he first came into his current position, which occurred about a year and a half ago when Gov. John Kasich appointed him to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of former Judge Michael Ward.

He has previously served as a city attorney for the City of Athens, Assistant Prosecutor for Meigs County and a private attorney.

He has handled a wide variety of cases both civil and criminal, in criminal defense, personal injury, real estate, probate and many more.

Both candidates addressed McCarthy’s overdue docket in their opening statements. Carson indicated that one out of every seven cases is overdue, while McCarthy explains this is because he is still catching up from the cases he was left when he took this position.

“The amount of cases on the overtime list are not uncommon across the State of Ohio,” McCarthy said.

The debate continued as questions were then asked by the media and the audience. The candidates were asked why students should vote for them, and Carson explained his dedication to fairness, while McCarthy referenced his previous experience with students and helping them be represented fairly.

When asked what they would do in their position to better Athens County as a whole, both candidates talked about the need to get a handle on the drug problem, specifically prescription pain pills and heroin.

“I think that’s the biggest epidemic that’s affecting families of all walks of life, it’s not constricted to any one income level, any one race, or religious belief,” Carson said.

McCarthy agreed with this and added, “I think some of it is a lack of jobs in our area, I can’t tell you how many people that have fallen victim to depression and turned towards drugs to kind of numb themselves because they can’t find employment down in our area.”

Both candidates suggested searching for grants and programs as ways to aid this growing problem they see every day in the court system.

An audience member asked the candidates whether the judges races should be partisan or nonpartisan.

McCarthy said political affiliation should not matter in races like this. “I think it’s something when you represent people or are representing the community, you are representing the community as a whole. You are supposed to be fair and impartial.”

Carson said political parties should not be labeled on the ballots, but it should be known what party the person is affiliated with. “I think the political party you belong to shows people some of your inner concerns, your personality, by the party you are affiliated with.”

The candidates discussed questions regarding the formation of a drug court, the ways courts have changed since they started their careers, and what positive and negative qualities they possess.

Carson said one of his best qualities is understanding people on an individual level, while his more negative quality is his promptness to start court on time. McCarthy said his positive qualities are his organization and readiness to get involved, while his more negative qualities are internalizing his stress and overeating.

Each candidate had time to give a closing statement at the end.

McCarthy said he hoped he has made a difference in his time in office. “Whether you look at me as a Republican or not, I’m here to do the best job I can.”

Carson got emotional while discussing his beliefs for treating everyone fairly regardless of race, orientation, etc. “It would be an honor to serve the county I grew up in and raised my daughters in.”

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