Surprise! Hamilton County Has Two Municipal Court Elections
There really weren’t supposed to be any races for municipal court judgeships in Hamilton County this year.
But, as it turns, a promotion of one municipal court judge and the election of another to a higher court, has produced two races for the unexpired terms.
But not everyone in the county will get to vote on them. Both judgeships are in one of the county’s seven municipal court districts.
What happened was this:
Last fall, Municipal Court Judge Russell Mock, a Republican, was elected to the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals over another municipal court judge, Democrat Fanon Rucker.
Also last fall, Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph E. Winkler, a Republican, was elected to Hamilton County’s probate court judgeship over Charlie Luken, a Democrat.
That left two vacancies for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to fill by appointment, using a list of possible candidates submitted by the Hamilton County Republican Party.
In February, Kasich appointed Hamilton County juvenile court administrator Curt Kissinger to the judgeship left open by Mock’s election to the appeals court.
Then, in April, the governor appointed Josh Berkowitz, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, to Shanahan’s former seat on the municipal court.
The Democrats, of course, had the opportunity to recruit candidates to oppose Kissinger and Berkowitz in the Nov. 3 election.
The Democrats came up with Shane Herzner, a criminal defense attorney with previous experience as an assistant county prosecutor, to run against Kissinger.
Bob Kelly, a practicing attorney in Norwood and that city’s former law director, filed as the Democratic candidate to take on Berkowitz.
Kissinger and Herzner are running for the remainder of Mock’s term on the municipal court, which ends on Jan. 2, 2018.
Berkowitz and Kelly are running for the remainder of Shanahan’s municipal court term, which runs until Jan. 4, 2020.
Both races are in District 4 which includes Anderson Township, Newtown, Mt. Washington, Mt. Lookout, Columbia-Tusculum, Hyde Park, Oakley, Fairfax, Mariemont, Norwood, Mt. Adams, and the southeast portion of downtown Cincinnati.
In Ohio, there are no party designations on the ballot in judicial races. But all four candidates are running with their county parties’ endorsements.
Here is some information about the candidates and their backgrounds:
Born and raised on the west side of Cincinnati, Berkowitz attended Elder High School before going on to Ohio State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He earned his law degree from Capital University in Columbus
He first worked as a criminal defense lawyer and later went to work for the Franklin County prosecutor. Seven years ago, he returned to his home town and went to work for Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.
Like his opponent, Berkowitz is a former law director for the city of Norwood.
He and his wife Elizabeth live in Norwood; and have two sons.
He has endorsements from the Cincinnati Right to Life PAC, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 69, the Buckeye Firearms Association and Citizens for Community Values.
On his campaign website, the Norwood Democrat tells voters he is “not afraid of hard work.”
He worked his first job at the age of eight as a caddy at Hyde Park Country Club; and worked at Kroger in high school. He said he worked his way through college at City Ice and spent his nights loading and unloading trucks at UPS.
“I paid for my law school education while working full time and going to law school in the evenings,’’ Kelly said.
Kelly operates his law practice in Norwood. He’s worked as both a defense lawyer and a prosecutor.
He is a former Norwood city council member, as well as being former law director of Norwood, Hamilton County’s second largest city. His daughter, Brigid Kelly, is running as a Democratic candidate for state representative in next March’s primary.
Kelly chaired a Norwood task force that he said “enabled the economic revitalization of the city of Norwood after the closing of the General Motors factor.”
Kissinger, who lives in Hyde Park, is a 1987 graduate of the University of Cincinnati and earned his law degree from the University of Dayton law school.
He began his career as an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor in the criminal division.
Later, he was appointed to serve as a special prosecuting attorney for the Ohio Organized Crime Commission, a state and federal task force formed by the Ohio Attorney General to prosecute white collar and organized crime in southwest Ohio.
He then entered private practice with the firm of Rendigs, Fry, Kiely & Dennis. According to his campaign website, he has appeared as an attorney in the courtrooms of every one of his fellow judges.
In Dec. 2011, he became administrator of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, where he managed 289 employees, the court’s 16-bed detention center and an annual budget of $25 million.
Kissinger was a member of the Hamilton County Ethics Commission and served on the boards of HOPE For Children and Families, Journey to Successful Living and Ohio Family and Children First.
He is the father of two daughters, one a sophomore at the University of Kentucky and one a senior at Ursuline Academy.
Like his opponent, Herzner is a graduate of the University of Dayton law school.
He began his legal career as a counsel for a property management company, but he wanted to be a courtroom lawyer and ended up spending three years as an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor.
Today, he is running his own private practice, focusing on criminal defense. He has co-authored a book on OVI/DUI defense.
The father of two young children, Herzner volunteers as a room parent at his children’s school, is a member of the PTO, is involved in Boy Scouts and coaches baseball.
According to his campaign website, he has lived in the 4th Judicial District most of his life. He moved to Newtown when he was seven, went to Turpin High School and worked over the summers to pay his way through college.
His father was a truck driver and a member of the Teamsters Union, “and taught Shane the values of being fair, honest and the importance of working hard,” his campaign website said.
To learn more about the candidates, visit their websites: