Help is on the way! Read this, then vote for judges

Soon you will be face-to-face with your 2020 primary ballot, pondering over the long list of judgeships that appear there. Here is some information that may help you figure out what to do with those races. These details have been distilled from the 2018 edition of “Here’s Cuyahoga County,” a publication prepared and distributed by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland.

One listing on the ballot is under the category “Ohio Court of Appeals, 8th District.” Ohio has 12 appellate districts. Populous Cuyahoga County comprises the entire 8th District which has 12 judges in total. This court hears appeals from the Court of Common Pleas and the municipal courts in our county. 

All appellate court judges are elected to six-year terms. Candidates must be attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio and must have six years of legal experience. They must reside within the jurisdiction of the court on which they serve.

Likewise, candidates for the Court of Common Pleas are elected for six-year terms and require licensure and legal experience as for appellate court judges.

Voting for judges for Cuyahoga County’s Court of Common Pleas is confusing for two reasons. First, there are four divisions within this court (general, probate, domestic relations and juvenile) and candidates file to run for a specific division, so noted on the ballot. Second, the six-year terms have staggered start dates, such as Jan. 1, Jan. 2, Jan. 3. (The Court of Appeals candidates also show staggered term start dates.)

Another bafflement for Ohio voters is that judge candidates for all courts are nominated in party elections at primary time and their political advertisements generally note their party affiliation.  However, when the nominees appear on the general election ballot in November, party affiliations will be absent.

The courts of common pleas in all Ohio counties have original jurisdiction in criminal and civil cases arising in the county as well as in juvenile, probate and domestic relations matters.  In Cuyahoga County, as well as many others, special dockets have been created for specific issues, such as drug court.

The 2020 primary ballot also contains two candidates for Ohio’s Supreme Court.

The websites for all of Cuyahoga County’s courts are a good source for additional information about their workings:, and

An additional source for decision making about judge candidates is the compiled rankings from the several bar associations in Cuyahoga County, available at (Note, not all candidates have participated in this compilation.)

And, before turning the page to leap over the many judgeship candidates, stop to consider that your vote has significance in the careers of these candidates. Of course, many of those on the ballot will go on to win judgeships in November. Many will reappear in future primary elections, perhaps as candidates for a different level court or for another six-year term on the court they were first elected to serve. Some will seek another kind of elective office or aspire to serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio or aim to be selected as a federal-level attorney. Your vote counts!

Janice Patterson

Chair, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter, League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland

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Volume 12, Issue 4, Posted 10:05 AM, 02.18.2020