Two candidates are vying to replace retiring Elyria Municipal Court Judge John Musson, a Republican. Elyria Municipal Court Judge Lisa Locke Graves, also a Republican, is unopposed in her re-election bid.
How would you improve court operations?
Bennett: Judge Locke Graves and Judge Musson have created what I believe is one of the best municipal courts in the state of Ohio. Having proudly served with both of them, I would like to continue that tradition. There are a number of programs in place that I would like to see continued and enhanced including the Defensive Driving Diversion Program and the License Intervention Program.
I would also like to look at the feasibility of creating a DUI court program, which would involve intensive probation and monitoring of certain repeat or youth offenders.
Grunda: I would realign the hours and days of operation of the court. Instead of both courts operating from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, I would have one court operate from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday the other 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
This offers two additional hours of operation each day Monday through Friday, thus cutting down on failure-to-appears, the number of warrants issued and served and a reduction in crowded dockets. Should budget constraints require a 10 to 20 percent reduction, realignment will still permit full-time services being offered Monday through Friday without additional cost. Under the present mode of operation, the courts will have to close a half-day to a full day each week. My plan offers the community more services for less taxpayer dollars.
What alternative sentencings would you consider imposing to help alleviate jail overcrowding?
Bennett: With jail closings, the judge will need to be more creative in sentencing individuals found guilty. Statewide, there are municipal courts that have established special DUI courts that require intensive probation goals and monitoring. I believe for these to be effective, the judge must take an active role in monitoring and be prepared to impose suspended jail time if the defendant does not meet the program requirements. Given incentives to be successful such as completing a GED course for individuals who have not completed high school should allow the court to improve our community one defendant at a time
I would also like to use the community service option more. Recent changes in the Driving Under Suspension laws actually involve community service as part of the available sentencing. I would, however, like to see the monitoring be tightened up. I would also like to review the actual service being performed to make sure it truly benefits the community.
Grunda: I would increase the use of the Licenses Intervention Program and the Defensive Driving Diversion Program. I would accept the use of screening and diversion for non-violent offenders, enhance the use of community-based organizations like the Nord Center, Psych & Psych Services, LCADA and the Urban League’s mentoring program. I would offer more social behavior modification counseling, implement the use of house arrest, GPS monitoring, intensive supervised probation and court-supervised release. Lastly, I’d rely heavily on community service, probation and monitored time to alleviate overcrowding for non-violent offenders.
What makes you best suited for the job?
Bennett: I have 32 years of diverse experience. For the last 10 years, I’ve served as acting judge for the Elyria Municipal Court. I have civil as well as criminal experience.
In addition to my professional credentials, I have a long history of community service. I served on the Elyria school board for 18 years, the Lorain County Children Services Board for 11 years, the Joint Vocational School Board for three years, the Mental Retardation and Development Disability Board for four years, and the Elyria Summer Theater Board for eight years.
I have spent most of my adult life making tough decisions for this community ranging from educational decisions for our children to deciding whether or not to charge a criminal with a capital crime.
I also believe I possess a maturity and insight that one can only be gained from raising a family. My greatest joys and biggest disappointments have all been given to me by my five children. But through those experiences, I’ve learned to be patient, listen, make people take responsibility for their actions, make people accept the consequences of their actions and to be firm but fair. These are all qualities that a good judge should possess.
I believe my entire experience — legal, community service and family — has prepared me for this job, for this privilege.
My colleagues have given me the highest rating possible for integrity, honesty, independence and judicial temperament.
Grunda: My vast knowledge of municipal court law; my integrity, character and credibility in the community; and my judicial temperament and use of common sense all have prepared me to execute the duties and responsibilities of judge. Because I have dedicated my legal career to practicing in the municipal court on a daily basis for 22 years, this demonstrates my dedication to public service and my commitment to the courts and to the principles of our judicial system. I have more experience in and with the Elyria Municipal Court than my opponent. These qualifications make me the most capable candidate to handle the daily duties of this position and will ensure the smooth, effective and efficient administration of justice.
Gary C. Bennett
Education: Graduated from Elyria High School in 1970; graduated from Wittenberg University in 1974; graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1977
Family: Married to Marjory Machock; five children, Jennifer, David, Mark, Kevin and Kyle; seven grandchildren
Job history: Practiced law in Elyria for 32 years, currently with the St. Marie Law Firm; former solicitor and prosecutor for LaGrange for 22 years; former Lorain County prosecutor and assistant county prosecutor; currently magistrate and acting judge in Elyria Municipal Court
Education: Graduated from Admiral King High School, 1979; graduated from the University of Toledo, 1983; graduated from Ohio Northern Law School, 1986
Job history: Presently Chief Prosecutor for Elyria and Grafton; prosecutor for Elyria for 22 years and Grafton for 20 years; former prosecutor for North Ridgeville; acting prosecutor for LaGrange and North Ridgeville; special prosecutor for Lorain, Vermilion and the county; private law practice
Web site: www.grundaforjudge.com