ELECTION 2020: 4 attorneys vie for appeals court seat

Four attorneys will vie in the Tuesday’s primary election for an open seat on the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals.

Clermont County attorney Mary Birck, Warren County attorney Matthew Byrne, Ohio Sen. Bill Coley of Liberty Twp., and Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II are running in the Republican primary. There is no Democrat running, so thewinner of this race, barring a write-in candidate, will run unopposed in November.

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The open six-year term will be vacated at the end of this year by appeals court Judge Robert Ringland, who cannot seek re-election due to the state’s judicial age limit. The appeals court is the step before the Ohio Supreme Court and hears appeals made after lower court cases are adjudicated. There are eight counties in the court’s jurisdiction, including Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Fayette, Madison, Preble and Warren counties.

Birck has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and graduated from the University of Cincinnati Law School in 1994. She taught at St. Ursula Academy for three years between college and law school, was a clerk for Clermont County Domestic Relations Court Judge Michael Voris, and is currently an attorney in the civil division of the Clermont County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I have significant experience in probate court, domestic relations as well as a wide variety of cases. Many of the matters are business-related, as Clermont County is a large employer and is in the “business” of sewers, waters, road and bridge construction, etc.,” Birck said.

Birck said she is the best candidate for the judgeship because she has the most experience appearing before the 12th District.

“I have had both more experience and more recent experience in the 12th District Court of Appeals than the other candidates. The most recent experience any of my opponents has had as an attorney practicing in the 12th District Court of Appeals is 2008; one opponent has not appeared since 2005. My most recent case was in November 2019 representing the Clermont County Board of Election, which prevailed,” she said.

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Byrne earned a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University and his law degree from The Ohio State University. He is currently practicing law at Jackson Lewis P.C., law firm, representing employers ranging from small, family-owned businesses to international corporations in employment litigation.

Prior to law school, Byrne said he worked as a White House staffer during President George W. Bush’s first term.

“In addition to my extensive experience representing clients in both trial and appeals court cases, I am the only candidate who has actually demonstrated his commitment to the right judicial philosophy by serving as a leader in—or even being involved in — the Federalist Society,” Byrne said.

Byrne described the role of an appellate judge.

“I believe that the role of a judge is limited: to apply the law as written, not as the judge may prefer it to be. Whether applying a constitution, a statute, or a regulation, the judge’s role is to impartially apply the original meaning of the words, not to create new law. A judge is a judge, not a legislator,” Byrne said.

Coley, currently the representative in Ohio’s 4th District who cannot seek re-election to that seat because of term limits, is a Butler County resident and has been a business litigation and development attorney since 1986, licensed to practice in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

He said his experience as a legislator and attorney make him the best candidate for the appellate seat.

“I share the values of the voters in this district and I have a proven record that they can look to and know that I share their values. My experience both as an attorney and a legislator give me a depth of knowledge that is unique.” Coley said.

Powers, a native of Middletown, received a bachelor’s degree from Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., and a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He has served as a Butler County Common Pleas Judge since 2007.

Before election to the judgeship, we was in private practice as a defense attorney and served as an assistant Butler County prosecutor. In addition, Powers also served as Middletown city councilman and mayor.

Powers notes is is the only candidate to hold a gavel, now or ever

“The theme of my campaign is ‘Experience Matters’, because it does,” Powers said. “No matter what other qualities one seeking a judicial office has, those qualities mean nothing without experience. My prior legal and life experience is the controlling factor in this race.

“Prior judicial experience is an important attribute for an appellate judge as they must regularly evaluate the actions and decisions of a trial judge. In this race, I am the only candidate who has any judicial experience. And, I have plenty, 13 years as a common pleas court judge to be exact, trying and processing some of Butler County’s most serious criminal and civil cases.

“It allowed me to develop a judicial temperament, where I learned to listen patiently to all sides, ask questions, do my homework, and then make a considered, and well-deliberated, decision, an important, and transferable, professional skill for an appellate judge.”

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