Two local attorneys are running for a seat on the Second District Court of Appeals.
Chris Epley and Marshall Lachman are seeking to become one of five judges that sit on the appeals court. The Second District Court of Appeals serves Montgomery, Greene, Darke, Miami, Champaign and Clark counties and is responsible for handling appeals that question legal decisions made by county common plea court judges.
The local attorneys are seeking to fill the seat being vacated by Judge Jeffrey E. Froelich. The position will pay $166,167 in 2021.
Both candidates told the Dayton Daily News that they believe it’s important for judges to listen to both sides of the argument and then apply existing law to the facts of the case.
Lachman said that he has practiced law for more than 30 years, has argued in front of the appeals court more than 100 times and handles the type of cases heard by the appeals court as a criminal defense attorney. He said that he’s earned respect in the legal community and is prepared to make the difficult decisions posed to the court on a regular basis.
"My experience and the knowledge that I have gained through that experience of handling appellate cases, the majority of the cases heard by the appellate are criminal and I think I am as much an expert, I have as much background and as much experience in criminal law than just anybody in this community and I am prepared to use that knowledge,” Lachman said. “I am trusted by the judges I appear before. The attorneys I work with and the attorneys I oppose all respect the work that I do.”
Epley said that he too would work to ensure that both sides of a case are treated fairly and that the right rulings are made. He said he has experience teaching appellate practice and procedure at the University of Dayton, is the appellate law chief attorney in Vandalia Municipal Court and has experience as a part-time magistrate in Dayton Municipal Court.
He also has served on the Oakwood City School Board and is a current member of the Oakwood City Council.
“Commitment to the local and legal community is really important to me. This is my community, it’s where I’m from and it’s where I’m raising my kids,” he said.
Epley said it’s important to listen and think before making judgments, but also said as an appeals court judge he would work to make sure cases don’t linger in the court.
“You really don’t want to be making quick decisions, yet you don’t want to be making slow decisions because the whole idea of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is true. If we don’t make a decision, then both parties are being harmed by that,” he said.
Lachman said he has been honored twice locally by the local courts for his work representing indigent defendants and his work in the juvenile court system. He said he has the right temperament to be a judge.
“You need a court to make sure that the proper decisions are being made under the existing law without regard to who the parties are, what you think the law should be, or what you want the law to be,” he said.
How would you go about making decisions on the appeals court?
Epley: By first listening before talking. In the court of appeals, there are five judges and three judges hear every case and make that decision. I think it’s important to be independent, yet cordial. It’s like serving on the school board or city council, there are five of us and we debate but hopefully we’re approachable and the parties feel they are getting hard-fought, well-researched decisions. That’s what I do when I teach, I make sure the kids, the students, research every potential issue and then narrow it down so the kids can feel confident when writing their brief or making their decisions on which point to argue when they argue in front of myself as their professor ... You want to make a well-reasoned decision and that’s what I’ve always done throughout my career, whether I was sitting on council or being a member of boards. It’s really important to do.
Lachman: I’ve had hundreds of jury trials in my career and I’ve always told the juries that you have to set aside any personal feelings. You have to apply the facts and follow the law, and as a judge I think it’s so important that a judge doesn’t come in — we all have our own political viewpoints, our own personal opinions, but the reality is as a judge, you have to set those aside you have to take everyone as they come on even footing without regard to race, gender, economic status ... You have to put all those things aside and you have to focus every time. In every case you must consider the arguments of both sides, you consider the law that applies to the matter. That’s what’s important and that’s what every litigant that comes before the Second District Court of Appeals deserves and would get from me.
What is the most important role of the appellate court?
Lachman: To make sure that the laws that are in existence are being properly followed and that the Ohio and the United States constitutions are being followed. Being a check on the trial courts, our system is based on a system of checks and balances and when mistakes are made, not intentionally, but there needs to be a check... It is so important to have that check to make sure everyone in our society feels equally treated. The justice system is there to present cases, to address grievances, and they’ll get a decision. and the court of appeals is there as a check to make sure the decision of the trial court was proper.
Epley: Making the right decision, being able to review the statute and understand the statute, understand why the lawmakers and the legislators made that law by reading the text, so when you review that, it’s really important. A great part of legal education is the critical thinking part of it, so we’re taking the emotion out of the decision but instead looking at the statute and determining if the facts of a certain case fit that statute and fit that law ... Taking your time, understanding it and looking at the different angles of facts. But you have to start with the text and the statute.
Why should voters consider voting for you?
Epley: My leadership and my commitment to the community. I have lived here for over 50 years, I’ve been grateful that the University of Dayton School of Law asks me back every year to teach appellate practice and procedure. I’ve also been grateful to do all the appeals that come through Vandalia Municipal Court and I also feel grateful that Dayton Municipal Court asks me to come back as a magistrate ... It’s the idea that I am grateful for being chosen for those different positions, on one hand and on the other making sure you do it right. You’re representing different people, different organizations, whether it’s the office or the law school, that’s a reflection on them, how we act on their behalf. That’s important to me.
Lachman: I have the experience that comes from 32 years of being in courtrooms on nearly a daily basis, from the knowledge that comes from being a student of the law. I have an understanding of the law and also an appreciation of the law. I think that shows in the trust that those, especially in the legal community that has known me for years and seen me in action, know what kind of an attorney I am. I think those people have the trust in me and know what kind of judge that I will be. As someone who was fair, someone who will never pre-judge a case and will always follow the law.