Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of articles intended to inform voters of candidates running for election this fall.
Three candidates in November are asking voters to choose them as the next judge in the Scioto County Common Pleas Court Domestic Relations Division — Republican Jay Willis, Democrat Jerry Buckler, and Independent J.B. Marshall.
Willis is the current-sitting judge, appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in February to complete the unexpired term left vacant by the retirement of former judge David Spears.
A graduate of Portsmouth High School, Willis received a bachelor’s degree from Capital University and earned his juris doctorate from Capital University Law School. Since 1999, he has served as a magistrate for the Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division, and has presided over more than 7,000 domestic court cases. He is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and the Scioto County Bar Association, and the Ohio Association of Magistrates (OAM). He has been a trustee on the OAM board since 2010.
He cites that experience as the biggest reason voters should consider him on the November ballot.
“I’ve been here for 13 years. I’m currently the judge. I know the job inside and out. I love working with the families in this county, and that is my primary goal and focus. I want to do everything I can for the families in the county to make their transition during what has to be the hardest time in their lives as easy as possible, and to try and reduce the conflict that the children have to go through,” Willis said.
The Democrat challenger, Buckler is a Lucasville resident who — in addition to his private practice of 16 years — is also a part-time city prosecutor and current member of the Valley School Board and Star Workshop Board, and former teacher. He graduated from Valley in 1983 before going on to earn degrees from Rio Grande, Ohio University and Capital University Law School. He is also a former court magistrate in Pike County, but said he has always lived in Scioto County.
Buckler said his law background makes him qualified to be judge, and his school background gives him experience dealing with children and family and he wants to make sure they are taken care of in court.
“One of my main concerns with that court is that we deal with men and women who argue about who’s going to pay the JCPenney bill, or who’s going to get the home, or who’s going to pay the mortgage; but many times we approve entries way too quick and forget about what’s in the best interest of the children. I think the children are somewhat left behind when we do these domestic relations cases,” Buckler said.
If elected, Buckler said he would like to institute a new policy to include both parties in the multiple pre-trials.
“So that each litigant, husband and-or wife, get to come into the courtroom and not feel like these issues, that are of the utmost importance to them, are being talked about behind their back. I’ll bring it into the courtroom so they’ll know, this is what just happened, this is what we’re going to do next, this is why this may be set for another date; that way they have a personal connection as to their livelihood,” Buckler said.
He also says he would pay more attention to cases involving domestic violence, and issues of contempt of court.
The Independent candidate J.B. Marshall has operated a private law practice in Portsmouth for 33 years.
“A major part of my practice has been domestic relations. I chose to run for the position as domestic relations judge because I want to help out the citizens of Scioto County who are seeking divorce to see that they get one in a more rapid fashion. I think the court needs to be streamlined and the court dockets need to be modified to separate the cases into three different areas,” Marshall said.
He divided those three areas into cases where the parties only have property to divide, cases where the parties have property and children together, and cases where the parties have property and children and one party has a court order forbidding the other party from seeing the child.
“If the court does this, then the cases should move more rapidly. There is no reason for a divorce to go on for one or two years unless there are extreme matters involved and the lawyers are continuing because they have been unable to obtain proper discovery,” Marshall said.
Marshall said he has worked many different jobs, from milking cows to working on construction jobs, and said that diversity and the different people he has met in his life offer him a unique perspective of everyday people. He said he is running as the Independent candidate because he is not taking either side of politics.
“Most people are upset with how government is operating anyway. It’s delayed and nothing is getting decided by the parties. People are wanting both parties to come together to make a decision to move forward,” he said.
The General Election is Nov. 6, 2012, and early voting is open now.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.