Ohio Supreme Court rejects Miami County judge’s objection to challenger’s qualifications

ajc.com

The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled Tuesday that Miami County Recorder Jessica Lopez will be a candidate on the Nov. 2 ballot for county Municipal Court judge.

The candidacy of Lopez was challenged by current Judge Gary Nasal.

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He filed a protest of the county Board of Elections’ certification of Lopez as a candidate, claiming she did not meet the requirement to run for the court of serving six years as an attorney.

The Board of Elections held a hearing in late July on Nasal’s protest. It voted, 4-0, following the hearing to deny Nasal’s protest.

Nasal then filed with the Supreme Court a request for a writ of prohibition to keep Lopez off the ballot. In its decision, the court said, “Judge Nasal failed to show that the board (of elections) abused its discretion or acted in clear disregard of applicable law by denying the protest and placing Lopez’s name on the November ballot.”

Nasal, a former county prosecutor, has sat on the municipal court bench since 2013. Lopez has served as recorder since 2013.

At the July 27 hearing, Lopez testified, and her lawyers argued, that she had worked both in law firms and then private practice following admission to the bar in 2006. The work included serving as a guardian ad litem and as recorder.

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The court said Tuesday that the time she worked for law firms – 30 months – and then in solo practice – 42 or more months – was enough to satisfy the six-year requirement. The question argued at the hearing of whether her years as recorder constituted the practice of law was not considered, the court said, because the other work filled the requirement. Those serving as county recorders are not required to be an attorney.

Lopez was not available for immediate comment Tuesday afternoon, but said when the filing was made with the Supreme Court of Ohio that she was confident the court would reject Nasal’s argument and that she looked forward to offering voters a choice in November.

The board of elections staff was working Tuesday on finalizing the Nov. 2 ballots so they could be reviewed and printed.