Jackson has worked as an attorney for 17 years and is currently the lead of the appellate division in the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office. Before that, she practiced civil litigation and served as director of the Race & Justice Project at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center.
She said the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court doesn’t have a career public defender who is serving on the bench currently.
“I believe that is is very important. Public defenders have a career that centers around representing poor folks and dealing with a lot of the issues that drive criminal behavior,” Jackson said. “So we’re walking hand-in-hand, if you will, with folks who are dealing with addiction, mental health and other types of issues related to poverty.
“We have a unique perspective in that we understand what those struggles are like and why they drive criminal behavior, but we also are in a position to see what truly works to address those root causes and the other structural barriers that are present in the criminal justice system,” she said.
Jackson said if elected, her priorities will be using evidence-based therapeutic alternatives to incarceration where legally appropriate, increasing efficiency and access to the court using technology and respecting the rights of victims.
“I am a Dayton native, a graduate of Dayton Public Schools, an HBCU graduate, and a mother of two school-aged daughters. I am a hard-working, open-minded, and compassionate person and I believe I would be a good judge,” Jackson said.
Gaines has been a lawyer for 18 years in Dayton and started working in business litigation, workers’ compensation and employment law. And then she was hired as a Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court magistrate in 2011.
She said as a magistrate, she hears cases, weighs evidence and writes recommendations for the court’s adoption about everything involving a divorce including child support, spousal support, custody and parenting time. Gaines said domestic relations touches many other areas in the law as many cases involve people seeking separation for issues like domestic violence or bankruptcy.
“I saw there was a need to have more judges who are well rounded on the bench, have a broad practice experience and know how to relate to people and I think that’s a strength that I bring,” Gaines said. “I really pride myself in making sure I communicate in ways that laypeople can understand so they understand what has happened to them in court.”
She said people who are not familiar with the judicial system are usually nervous or scared about coming to court, and it’s important to have judges who have experience. Gaines said her priorities will be procedural fairness, due process and judicial transparency. She said she is open to using drug treatment, diversion and specialty court dockets when appropriate.
“Because I have been a judicial officer for 11 years, I am ready to take the reign and to be a judge and to make sure that justice is administered fairly to all people,” she said.
Changes on ballot
Tony Schoen had applied to run in this Democratic primary as well, but he now will likely face Kim Melnick for a different judge seat — the one that was previously held by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Michael Krumholtz. Krumholtz retired and Melnick was recently appointed to the seat by DeWine.
Because of the timing of Krumholtz’s retirement, there will not be a primary for his seat, but the Democrats are allowed to choose a candidate to run. Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens told the Dayton Daily News that Schoen has been selected to run for Krumholtz’s seat. Schoen said that once the selection is finalized, he will withdraw from the Singer primary.