Incumbent Republican Greene County Probate Judge Thomas O’Diam will face Independent Mark Babb, a criminal defense lawyer, in the race for the judicial seat on the Nov. 3 ballot.
O’Diam has been the county probate judge since 2013. Before that, O’Diam was a probate attorney for 28 years.
Babb, the managing partner at Babb, Anderson, Rowland and Smith, said he was compelled to run for the office because of O’Diam’s conduct during a three-year-long dispute with the county commissioners and two other county judges over courtroom space.
O’Diam said it was unfortunate that the matter went to litigation but two different studies have found the probate court’s hearing room to be inadequate.
Thomas O’Diam also receives stock redemptions ranging from $30,000 to $70,000 every year from his former law firm, which is also Brittany O’Diam’s current firm. In all 45 cases in her father’s court, Brittany O’Diam has filed a waiver of disqualification, a form which all parties sign acknowledging the judge’s potential conflict of interest and agreeing to proceed.
Thomas O’Diam said his daughter and anyone else in his former law firm only practice in his court in “non-adversarial cases.”
In cases where parties don’t agree to sign a waiver or the case is adversarial and requires a hearing, Thomas O’Diam said his daughter either hands the case off to another lawyer or he recuses himself and a visiting judge is brought in.
“There’s always that appearance of impropriety that we should be concerned about,” Haller said.
Thomas O’Diam said Babb’s issue with Brittany O’Diam practicing in front of him indicates a “disturbing” lack of knowledge on Babb’s part.
“That also goes to his lack of experience and understanding of probate because he has no probate experience,” O’Diam said. “He’s never handled a probate case. He’s a criminal defense attorney. And in a criminal defense setting, I would agree, it would never be appropriate (for my daughter to practice in my court) because those are adversarial cases.”
Babb said knowledge and experience in the probate field are less important than treating people fairly and respectfully.
The judge term is for six years and the job will pay an annual salary of $152,811 in 2021. Probate court cases include settling estates, guardianships of minors or incompetent adults, wrongful death settlements and adoptions.
Here are answers O’Diam and Babb provided in response to questions from the Dayton Daily News:
Q: How has your experience prepared you to fulfill the responsibilities of a probate judge?
Babb: (It is important the probate) judge has the ability not just to understand the law, but to be open and understanding of people. I’ve had a lot of experience. I’ve represented, I don’t know how many, but in the thousands of clients since being an attorney. I have a lot of experience with people with very difficult situations … I supervise probate lawyers here at my firm. I’m the managing partner at Babb, Anderson, Rowland and Smith. We all do different practices so I haven’t been in the probate court, per se, but I do supervise the work of attorneys that do practice in that area.
Q: How would you improve the management of the court in the next term? And O’Diam, how have you improved the court?
Hometown: Xenia Twp.
Political Party: Republican
Political Experience: Greene County Probate Judge 2013-present
Education: Bachelor’s in agriculture from Ohio State University, law degree from the University of Dayton
Hometown: Lives in Yellow Springs, originally from Akron
Political Party: Independent
Political Experience: none
Education: Bachelor’s in economics from Kent State University, law degree from the Ohio State University
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