Municipal Judge Race

By Wayne Gates – 

Three people are currently running for Brown County Municipal Judge.
Incumbent Joseph Worley, Jessica Little and Michele Harris are all competing for the six year term that begins on January 1.
Each candidate was furnished a list of questions for this article and the responses are being printed as submitted without editing.

The candidates will be presented in alphabetical order, beginning with Harris

Why are you running for election?
My husband and I made Brown County our home in 2009 and we love our community. We have two young children who are growing up in Mount Orab, and being Judge would allow me to serve our community and work to make Brown County safer for everyone. Brown County citizens deserve a fair but firm judge on the bench.
What changes, if any, would you make to the current operation of the court?
I believe that the Brown County Municipal Court could be more supportive of crime victims. The Court currently does not provide adequate spaace for crime victims waiting for their court hearings away from the people who have been charged with crimes. Further, I believe that the Court could run more efficiently and with better supervision of court staff. Municipal Court has the highest case load of all courts with only two probation officers available to provide resources. With job reorganization, I hope to staff three probation officers using the same budget. Finally, I hope to be able to pull together community resources to provide rehabilitation services for our probationers seeking help and increase the likelihood for successful rehabilitation, as well as, creating opportunities to allow them to give back and serve the community.
What personal and professional experience do you have that would make you an effective judge?
My educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts from Miami University and Juris Doctorate from Chase College of Law. I was admitted to practice law in Ohio 2006 as well as to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 2007.
I served as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Brown County from 2007 to 2012 and prosecuted in Brown County Municipal Court for almost four years before handling the felony docket.  Currently, I work as an assistant prosecutor in Adams County, Ohio handling felonies, juvenile delinquency and abuse/neglect cases.
I’ve been a magistrate in Felicity Mayor’s Court since 2013 and handled over a thousand cases.  As magistrate, I have helped many drivers to get valid driver’s licenses.
My litigation experience includes tough cases involving rape, kidnapping, felonious assault, burglary, domestic violence and drunk driving.  I believe my criminal prosecution and magistrate experience has given me the insight and wisdom to provide help to the ones who will work hard and stay out of trouble.  On the other hand, my years of handling difficult cases have shown me that there are those that are not willing to work and will continue to commit offenses.
Finally, I’m a mother of two children.  Arbitrating and deciding disputes fairly and firmly are just some of my daily tasks as my husband and I try to raise two children who will be responsible, educated, and kind.
What is the most important issue/biggest challenge facing the court and how do you plan to address it?
Brown County Municipal Court, like all a lot of other courts in Ohio, are flooded with cases that in some way involve drug related activity. Whether it’s a theft case where the suspect was stealing to support a drug habit or an impaired driving case where the suspect was driving with drugs in their system, our community is being ravaged by the opioid epidemic. Our county lacks resources to fight this problem. I cannot solve this problem as a judge, but I can work with the community at providing resources for those seeking help.
It concerns me greatly, as a prosecutor, but more as a mom, that our school system has lost its Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. The way to turn the tide against the drug epidemic is to educate our children of the dangers of drugs. Working to reinstate the DARE program and other prevention programs like “Safe Communities” would be a priority for me.
If someone were to ask you “Why should I vote for you?”, how would you briefly answer them?
I’m a candidate for change. As Judge, I will work to make the court more supportive of crime victims. I believe crime victims’ rights should be protected and ensured by the Court.
On the bench, I would strive to be fair but firm in upholding justice.  As an elected official, I would work with community members at providing resources and educational opportunities to our children as we continue our battle against drug addiction.
For more information feel free to check out our website: MicheleHarrisforJudge.com or on Facebook at Michele.HarrisForJudge

The following responses were received from Jessica Little

Why are you running for election?
I wanted to offer myself to the voters as a professionally qualified and temperamentally suitable candidate choice.   I served the citizens of Brown County in a position of public trust as their Prosecuting Attorney from January 2009 until December 2016, and I would like to continue that service in the position of Municipal Court Judge if the voters decide they want a change.
What changes, if any, would you make to the current operation of the court?
I would like to completely re-configure the interior of the Municipal Court building.  When the building was constructed in the 1980’s, it met the needs of the community.  But now, with the increased volume of litigants, witnesses, victims, probationers, and jurors, there is just not enough space for efficient operations. The goal would be to have a discrete waiting area for crime victims, put employees that have related functions in closer proximity to each other, and take some of the congestion out of the main lobby by having a separate waiting room for the large number of probationers reporting to see their probation officers and takeing their drug tests.  While the interior is being re-configured, it would be an ideal time to integrate updated technology into the courtroom.  To accomplish this, the Municipal Court Judge, the Clerk of Courts, and the Commissioners would have to work together, as each office has a vital role in the efficient delivery of court services.
What personal and professional experience do you have that would make you an effective judge?
As the former elected Brown County Prosecuting Attorney, I supervised a staff of 11 persons, including 6 assistant prosecuting attorneys, and managed a budget of over $700,000, which included the Brown County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force. I routinely met with the Sheriff and village police chiefs to keep the lines of communication open and to prepare solid cases for trial.  I represented the State of Ohio in criminal and traffic cases, and I was statutory legal counsel for all county elected officials, such as the Sheriff and Treasurer, county boards, such as Developmental Disabilities and the Commissioners, and all township boards of trustees.  I have handled murder and rape trials, drafted contracts, reviewed public records requests, and defended and prosecuted civil lawsuits for the county and other officials and boards.  I have filed briefs and argued cases in the 12th District Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Ohio.  Prior to my election as Prosecuting Attorney, I worked in private practice where I spent much time as a court appointed guardian ad litem for abused, neglected, and dependent children, and doing civil litigation in areas such as landlord/tenant, real estate, and personal injury.  I also worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney, primarily handling misdemeanor criminal and traffic cases, such as OVI, and juvenile court.
Because Municipal Court handles a high volume of civil cases, such as evictions, small claims, and complaints for money damages, in addition to criminal and traffic offenses, it is important the judge have well-rounded experience, and not deciding a whole category of cases in which there is very little or no experience as a litigant.  I have hands on experience in all the types of cases that come through Municipal Court, traffic, criminal, and civil.  I shouldered the responsibility of a high pressure position that was in the public eye, and exercised prosecutorial discretion in the best interest of our county.  I have the solid skill set needed to be an effective judge.
I believe in hard work and community involvement.  I respect our flag, value all it stands for, and honor those who fought and died defending it.  I received my high school diploma from Williamsburg Local Schools, a B.S. from Miami University, where I majored in Accountancy, and received my law degree from Northern Kentucky University, Chase College of Law, where I graduated Mana Cum Laude in the top 10% of my class.  My husband David and I have been married 31 years and have 2 grown daughters, the oldest is a mechanical engineer, and the youngest is a college student and a PFC in the Ohio Army National Guard.  My husband also served honorably in the Ohio Army National Guard and works as a software engineer.  We have lived in Brown County for over 20 years, and have 3 dogs and a cat.  I am a member of St. Ann’s Church, the Mt. Orab Women’s Club, the Mt. Orab Lion’s Club, the Brown County Farm Bureau, and the Taliferro Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as chapter Regent from 2010 to 2013.  When my daughters were young, I was a Girl Scout Leader and volunteered with the junior athletic association.  I also play trumpet in a local band.  I have long been a part of our community, sharing its values, and striving to treat everyone with dignity and respect.  I submit to the voters that I have the personality and life experience that fosters good judicial temperament.
What is the most important issue/biggest challenge facing the court and how do you plan to address it?
The flood of drug addicted defendants funneling into the court system has put an unsustainable burden on county resources.  How do we turn the tide of the drug epidemic?  Looking at the big picture, I believe educating our young people and controlling the boarders of our country will help.  As a practical matter for the court, I would like to get addicts into withdrawal and treatment programs within hours of arrest rather than days, and after they are discharged from the court system, to have more sober living facilities available locally for recovering addicts to go so they don’t return to the same unhealthy environment and relapse.
If someone were to ask you “Why should I vote for you?” how would you briefly answer them?
I will decide disputes fairly and impartially, based on the evidence presented, and the applicable law, and manage the office in a responsible manner.  I stand on a record of public service that I hope inspires the voters to continue their faith and trust in me.

The following responses were received from Judge Joseph Worley

Why are you running for re-election?
• I am running for re-election to continue serving the people of Brown County in a just and expedient manner; to continue developing and implementing drug addiction treatment; to continue to stress community service and ankle monitoring systems for nonviolent offenders to reduce the need for more jail space and reduce costs.
What changes, if any, would you make to the current operation of the court?
• I am proud that the Court has operated on its agreed budget the past eleven years. The docket is current with no one waiting on a decision from the Court. Further the Court has started the vivitrol program which helps with alcohol and heroin addiction. Several county agencies work together to help the addicted with transportation to and from counseling, work opportunities, etc. The Court uses ankle monitors instead of a jail cell for nonviolent offenders and seriously ill defendants. These bracelets reduce costs for the county and reduce the tax burden on the taxpayers.
What personal and professional experience do you have that would make you an effective judge?
• I paid for law school by working a full-time job and attended classes at night. Upon graduation I served as an Assistant Prosecutor for four years handling juvenile court and then county court. I operated a private law practice for twenty years representing residents with criminal court matters, social security disability, landlord tenant problems, etc. I’ve served the past twelve years as your Municipal Court Judge. These experiences allow me to see the problems presented at Court from all sides leading to a fairer, better decision.
What is the most important issue/biggest challenge facing the court and how do you plan to address it?
• The Court’s biggest challenge is the drug crisis which has led to more inmates than our jail can hold. Many addicts’ need for drugs leads to stealing, burglary, robbery, etc. More access to punishment and treatment is needed.
If someone were to ask you “Why should I vote for you?”, how would you briefly answer them?
• I would say my performance as your Municipal Court Judge the past twelve years is the best reason to re-elect me. I have operated the Court on the agreed budget the past eleven years. The Court has handled over 100,000 cases and no one is waiting on me to make a decision on their case. The Court, with the help of several agencies, has started the vivitrol program for those addicted to heroin and alcohol. In addition, agencies are now working together to make sure addicts know all the resources available to them concerning treatment. Further I have made myself available to the Sheriff’s Dept., all police departments, and the Prosecutor’s Office twenty-fours a day, seven days a week. Finally, I still enjoy the job.