Miller has been involved in an elder abuse task force committee, literacy council, legal aide and is part of the Ohio and Dayton Bar Association.
Meanwhile, Brannon said he has worked hundreds of probate cases as an attorney and is passionate about the court. He said he will bring fresh ideas to the bench if elected, including implementing an open-door policy that will allow anyone with a new idea for how the court to run better to present it for consideration.
“I’m a practitioner. I’ve been doing this since 2005,” Brannon said. “I think it’s important to practice probate court. I practice in other courts so I see perspectives from this court to this court, this county or this jurisdiction and I think I come from the opinion that we should take the best ideas from those different places and use them in our court.”
Brannon is a certified specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate by the Ohio State Bar Association. He is also a member of the Ohio and Dayton Bar Association and was Co-Chair of the Dayton Bar Association Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Committee.
What are your goals if elected as probate judge?
Brannon: Judicial efficiency and economy and what I mean by that is technology and modernization of the court. I think that if anything this whole COVID situation has taught us is that some courts have looked to technology and done a good job with it it. You can now attend pretrials by Zoom, which are highly efficient, you can file things better, you can do things remotely and it increases accessibility for a lot of people. I want to improve that.
Collaboration with other agencies whether it be governmental or non-governmental. Take law enforcement, for example; there should be much better collaboration with the county. Take the jail; they have people who are institutionalized and people who don’t know what to do with someone who is mentally ill. They lack the resources or the ability to, and they’d tell you, they don’t want to be healthcare providers because that’s not their essential function. So what I’d like to see is information be shared. Let’s figure out who’s over there and what resources are available from the probate court.
Accessibility. I would allow a law clinic underneath the roof of the court that’s a little bit different. I’ve never seen it done in probate court but it works well with landlord and tenant cases and with domestic relations like divorce cases where somebody can’t afford legal services, or if it’s a particular kind of case, that a law clinic or a volunteer lawyer could be allowed to walk that case through, well the probate court could house a clinic and just help administratively. The court can’t give legal advice, but they certainly have the resources to unclog the docket.
Miller: Part of the goal is to perpetuate what we’ve already started with Judge McCollum, to be honest. There are a couple of things I would look into and the first would be with guardianships. The supreme court has put more rules and regulations on guardianships and what you’ll find is we have more and more needs for guardianships. I never fault the family member with their loved one who might be elderly and have Alzheimer’s and they just can’t handle the person anymore, but we don’t have a source of guardians for people who need them. We’re lacking.
There’s an organization called Life Essentials, and some lawyers get involved with Life Essentials and they have professional guardians, but their resources are limited and they don’t have enough people to really meet the need in our community. One of my goals is to work with Life Essentials and other agencies as a judge to try to develop a more sophisticated program, either expand Life Essentials or like I did with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, look for a volunteer type program where we can get people to volunteer to be guardians.
I think Guardianships to protect the elderly from abuse and neglect along with the mentally challenged individuals, I think that would one of the things that I would really focus on going forward.
Also, we have a system set up for e-filing in almost every case that we do. In the pandemic, the lawyers should have liked us because we were able to continue to work and they could continue to file their cases because we had electronic filing. With any new system, there are quirks that need to be worked out, so I would try to make it a better system and make it work for everybody.
I would be more sensible to those who don’t have access to a computer, making sure they can come down and use the computer, get online and things like that for people who aren’t computer savvy and be able to help them with that so they can access the services we provide electronically.
What is the state of the probate court in your opinion?
Brannon: Judge McCollum has done a fine job with improving technology there. I think it can be done better so I want to raise the bar a little bit specifically with the filing by practitioners. When you try to file something, it’s constant and I hear practitioners talk, and I’ve experienced it, where there are constant rejections. I don’t know why when I file something I should have to wait several days to hear back whether or not they’re taking it. Deadlines go by and people need decisions, So speeding things up.
So in my view, deadlines should be self-imposed on magistrates and court staff. I think there should be an open-door policy for sure for feedback from anybody whether it be Joe Public or a government agency or practitioners. People have really good ideas, you just have to have an open mind. And I’d like to throw it out there, when I talk to law enforcement, they need instant access, so I will make my magistrates and myself available 24/7 in order to have a contact point with the court. There are things we can do and we want to implement.
Miller: The state of the probate court is pretty good. Over the years we have expanded, we now have three social workers on staff who can go out and check on our wards, and different situations and they can also do home studies and things like that. Our clerk’s office runs pretty well, we have a number of clerks who’s been here for several years.
There’ll always be a sort of, whenever we do a transition, we are transitioning from paper to electronic and there’s a learning curve, but we run very efficiently. We have four magistrates and we handled thousands of cases, and a lot of cases are processed just through paper but a lot of them have contested hearings, we have to make a decision and the judge has to approve our decisions and the judge does her cases and she has a lot.
Age – 65
Hometown: Born Wolfeboro, New Hampshire Raised New Canaan, CT; Dayton resident for 40 years.
Family: Married to Susan Blasik-Miller, two daughters together: Lauren Miller Wilmoth, Alexandra (Alex) Miller, step-daughter Amanda Blasik, two grandchildren, Matthew and Ashley.
Political Party – Democratic
Education: Graduated from Miami University 1978 B.A. Degrees in Philosophy and Political Science
Graduated University of Dayton School of Law, J.D., 1984 (Law Review)
Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies – Mediation Skills Training Program 40 hour Training (2011).
American Bar Association Advanced Mediation and Advocacy Skills Institute November 21-22, 2013
Elder Mediation Training – Ohio Supreme Court (June, 2015)
Eldercaring Coordination Training, ACR and Ohio Supreme Court (July, 2015)
Prior Politics - None
Family: Jill (40, spouse), Kate (13), Brooke (10) and Charlotte (7)
Political Party: Republican
Political Experience: N/A
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (May 2002)
- Bachelor of Arts
- Double Majors in Political Science and Public Administration
- Minor: Business Legal Studies
- Overall GPA: 3.34
- Delta Chi Fraternity (Chapter President 2001-02), IFC Vice President of Membership Development 2000-01, Order of Omega (Greek Leadership Honor Society)
University of Dayton School of Law, Dayton, Ohio (May 2005)
- Juris Doctor
- Class Rank: 23/156 (Top 15%)
- Overall GPA: 3.425
- University of Dayton Law Review: Staff Writer 2003-04, Associate Editor 2004-05