YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – While the three candidates vying for the Youngstown Municipal Court judge position know why they’d be the best candidate for the job, they each have different ideas about how to serve on the bench.
They faced up in a debate Tuesday night at Youngstown State University, sponsored by the Youngstown Press Club.
The incumbent, Judge Renee DiSalvo, takes a more holistic approach, touting human trafficking court and the expansion of the driving-under-suspension court. She believes many offenders can be rehabilitated.
“We have changed the narrative of the Youngstown Municipal Court. It’s a new narrative and we are working with local government to improve the city’s narrative,” she said.
Candidates Martin Hume and Mark Hanni, both attorneys, talked about being tough on crime.
Hanni says people are “afraid to come to Youngstown” and property values are declining due to crime. He vowed to be tough on perpetrators of property crimes, saying victims of such crimes are afraid to be in their homes.
“People are prisoners of their own home. Houses are getting broken into at a large number. People are afraid of being home by themselves,” he said. “One thing I will tell you, in juvenile court, you rehabilitate. In adult court, you punish. People that break into homes need to be punished.”
Hume said while he’s supportive of a rehabilitative model, you also “can’t let people do the same thing over and over again,” citing the case of a woman with 100 petty theft cases.
All of the candidates said they have unique experiences that would help them on the bench.
DiSalvo talked about being the victim of domestic abuse and working her way out of the welfare system. She said her story is one of many that she sees on the other side of the bench.
Hume talked about his time as assistant prosecutor and law director for the city, during which time, he said the city began community-policing and quality of life programs. He said he has more legal experience than his opponents.
“I’ve literally handled thousands of cases,” he said. “One of the things you look for in a judge is the ability to recognize the situation, make good judgments and, ultimately, you’re deciding what should happen in any particular case. I’ve had to make those decisions over those 18 years and I’ve done it very, very successfully.”
The debate was mostly cordial, but DiSalvo took issue with Hume’s comments about her political background.
Hume said he’s the only candidate who has remained a staunch Democratic, questioning what he said was flip-flopping from the other candidates.
DiSalvo said the position is bipartisan and she wouldn’t want someone in the position with a political motive.
Dr. Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at YSU, was the mediator for the event.
Judge DiSalvo was appointed last fall by then-Gov. John Kasich to replace Judge Elizabeth Kobly, who retired in September 2018.
Hume, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor and a former city law director, received 55.5% of the vote in the May Democratic primary.
Hanni is a self-employed lawyer who has practiced criminal defense, civil, constitutional rights, employment and injured worker law.