3 seek common pleas judge’s seat
Washington County will have a new common pleas judge soon, with current judge Randall Burnworth retiring and three seeking to fill his position.
Two Republicans, John Triplett and John Halliday, will face off in the May 8 primary and the winner of that race will challenge Shoshanna Brooker, the Democratic candidate for Washington County Common Pleas Court judge in November.
Early voting is currently under way for the primary.
The General Division of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas is a court of record that handles felony criminal, large civil and domestic cases in the Fourth District of the Court of Appeals. The Court of Common Pleas is also responsible for generating the jury pool for all the courts in Washington County. The Marietta Times asked each candidate a series of questions to help voters make an informed decision.
Question: Why are you running for Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge?
Triplett: I want to serve my county and I believe I have a real contribution to make. Given that I started my career in public service (with the military), it makes sense that I come up the backside of my career in public service. I think everyone brings something different; I’m a career trial lawyer and have experience as a mediator, which is becoming a growing trend. I’m also licensed in Ohio and West Virginia, so I get to see how other people do it.
Halliday: I want to serve my community and my county. I have been an acting judge for a three year period for Judge (Milt) Nuzum, have enjoyed it and was good at it, and I think I will be a good judge for the people of Washington County.
Brooker: I think that five years on the bench and managing a docket has provided me the necessary training. Because I’m in the prime of my career, I have the energy and drive to address the opioid epidemic head on. I think we can do better at addressing it, specifically coordinating the services and treatment we already have available, seeking additional services and treatment for our offenders, and I think we can do better at putting our hand out for government grants to do those things.
Q: What do you think qualifies you for the position?
Triplett: My experience and my military training. In the military they teach you to make as good a decision as you can, with as much information as you can gather, in the time period you have. And then you live with it. I am an NRA pistol instructor and I believe I am the only one of us who is certified to instruct police officers on police procedure, how to testify, etc. I’ve been certified with OPATA (Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy) for 25 years. A judge educates not only the public but members of the bar association. Currently I am an adjunct at Ohio Valley University teaching evidence in the forensic accounting program.
Halliday: I’ve been in practice 25 years this fall and have served my clients everyday in all of their issues. Between my private practice and sitting on the bench, there is almost nothing that I haven’t seen. I’m familiar with all the areas that will come before the court — the civil, the criminal and the domestic. Those are the big three if you break it down.
Brooker: Ten years recent criminal law experience and the fact that I’ve already been overseeing a courtroom for the last five years. I think 17 years experience in running a business — my family’s campground and recreation park in central Ohio and private law office — has prepared me for the administrative end of running a court. My small business experience has made me fiscally conservative and I have applied for — and received — grants.
Q: Are you running on a certain platform?
Triplett: You can’t really have a platform as a judge because there is very little you can say. The local GOP held a forum recently and I told them, we can’t have a free-for-all.
Halliday: As a judicial candidate, I cannot take public positions on issues that may come before the court, we can’t prejudge issues. We have to be fair, impartial and timely in our decisions and I intend to treat everybody who comes before the court with dignity and respect. I never want anyone to think that I am doing anything but approaching it neutrally, fairly and impartially. But there are definitely issues that need to be addressed.
Brooker: We have to be really careful about what we say but my platform is, if we don’t start addressing the drug epidemic, it’s only going to get worse. Nobody from outside is going to come in and fix it for us, we have to do it. I do think we can do better. We’ve identified the problem and that’s the first thing. Now we need to start setting goals and working towards those goals and addressing the problem. I’m never going to say we can fix it but we can start doing something. Common pleas court has always been run in a fiscally conservative manner and I think it’s extremely important to continue that because in southeastern Ohio we do not have the funds to waste. That’s why asking for monies from the state and federal level is so important.
Q: What do you see as the biggest problem facing the area and what are you hearing as you go out to talk to voters?
Triplett: Of the things I can talk about, I would say the No. 1 issue is the drug crisis. I’m not going to call it an opioid crisis because meth has made an ugly reappearance. It really goes deeper than an opioid problem. Addiction is the problem with each drug having its own set of problems. We don’t have a drug court and I think that everyone agrees we need something. The key to affording it is seeking outside funding and it is my plan to look into all options.
Halliday: The addiction crisis and the crime that goes along with it. I think it’s going to necessitate a large time investment by the judges working collaboratively to figure out a solution. Looking into a drug court is going to be about funding and cost. The judges will have to work with the commissioners, ODJFS, mental health board, the state of Ohio and maybe even the feds to secure any resources that are available to get treatment for those that need and want it. And deserve it. Criminals will get the sentences they deserve. It’s really about making sure that the resources are available and trying to leverage them so that (the cost) is not solely borne by the citizens of Washington County.
Brooker: The biggest problem is addicts and their communities. That’s what I hear the most. People want users and dealers out of their communities. I do think the drug epidemic is the No. 1 issue, everything from thefts to neglect of children to the burden on family members. Legislative changes that have occurred over the last eight years have made it very difficult to incarcerate these people. (The state) is not giving us alternatives…the sentencing guidelines have changed. There is no plan and no real direction for these people. So we have to get programming, and we do have a lot of programming here, believe it or not. But we do have to have someone to coordinate, to make sure they are following through with the plan laid out by the court.
Q: What do you appreciate about the current court structure in Washington County and what would you change?
Triplett: Based on what I see from the way other courts run, we’re doing alright. There is always room for improvement but it’s not broken. Financially, our courts are running better than our neighbors, the court staff runs efficiently. But, frankly, I’m older than everyone and I feel I have a lot of experience I can bring and a fresh perspective. My military background has given me a view of the world that not everyone sees. I am active in Boy Scouts and both the Scouts and the military tell you to lead by example — you can’t just tell, you have to show. The discipline and focus I learned gives me the ability to be independent and to make those tough decisions.
Halliday: I practice there everyday. I enjoy our court system, the staff, the judges. The facilities are all top notch. As far as change, there’s not a lot I would change, I would just bring my own personality and style to the court system. It would be nice if I could convey just how important it is to serve on a jury, how crucial it is to our system of government.
Brooker: We have been very good about keeping our budget flat. We’re very responsible because we have to be. I like that we have our own PSI (pre-sentence investigation) department on-site to do the initial assessment so when we’re going into sentencing we do have some really good information concerning the offender. They are a multi-county organization but they are housed in our building which is extraordinarily helpful. My background in business means that I’m used to short-term and long-term planning. I’m used to determining what’s going to be the mission and what we’re trying to accomplish. Then making sure, before we move forward, we are looking at how this gets us to our six-month goal, our one-year goal, and three- and five-year goals. I think it’s going to be extraordinarily important if we’re going to do any kind of programming to work towards getting people clean. Because we are fiscally conservative, and have no choice because we simply don’t have the money, we have to have short- and long-term goals about what grants we’re going to apply for, we have to do research to determine what kind of programming is best for this court. I’ve already been doing some of that, I’ve been going to trainings to see what is available. Then we have to do an analysis on what resources we have and which ones are going to be the best source for us.
At a glance
¯ Age: 58.
¯ Address: 107 Alden Ave., Marietta.
¯ Family: Wife, Cinda; son, Adam.
¯ Education: Bachelors degree from Vanderbilt University on an Army ROTC Scholarship, 1981; Juris Doctorate with Distinction from the Law School of Ohio Northern University, 1984; United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
¯ Occupation: Partner Theisen Brock since 1992.
¯ Previous political experience: Never sought and never elected to public office.
¯ Age: 50.
¯ Address: 426 Fourth St., Marietta.
¯ Family: Wife, Courtenay; sons Jack and Cooper; daughter, Piper.
¯ Education: Bachelors degree from Ohio Wesleyan Cum Laude 1989; Juris Doctorate with Distinction from the Law School of Ohio Northern University, 1993.
¯ Occupation: Private practice attorney.
¯ Previous political experience: Ran for common pleas judge in 2006 and 2016; never elected to public office; has served as acting judge.
¯ Age: 42.
¯ Address: 1484 Turkeyhen Road, Fleming.
¯ Family: Husband, Jeff; daughter, Lakyn.
¯ Education: Bachelors degree in Communications from The Ohio State University, 1997; Juris Doctorate from Capital University Law School, 2004.
¯ Occupation: Common Pleas Court Magistrate since 2013.
¯ Previous political experience: Ran for common pleas judge in 2016; never elected to public office.