Two Republicans are running in the May 8 election for an open seat on the Montgomery County Juvenile Court bench.
State Rep. Jeff Rezabek is running against attorney C. Ralph Wilcoxson II. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Helen Wallace of Centerville in November.
Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Nick Kuntz planned to retire at the end of the year creating the vacancy. Kuntz died on Monday, one day before the election.
RELATED: Juvenile Court Judge Kuntz dies
Here’s some background information on the candidates:
Experience: State Representative 43rd District - 2015-present. Attorney - 1997-present. Areas of pPractice - juvenile law, guardian ad litem within Jjuvenile, domestic relations and probate courts, criminal defense, family law. Served as a substitute magistrate in Dayton Municipal Court
Education: University of Dayton - BA in psychology - 1991 University of Dayton School of Law - JD 1997
C Ralph Wilcoxson II
Experience: 25 years licensed to practice law. 12 years magistrate Juvenile Court. 14 total years as a magistrate in Ohio. Extensive community involvement related to children and families.
Education: Meadowdale High School 1982. Ohio State University 1986. St. Mary's University School of Law 1992.
We asked Rezabek and Wilcoxson what they would do if elected. Here’s a look at their responses:
Q: What are the two biggest issues facing the court?
Jeff Rezabek: 1. Energy/Innovation: I believe the court would benefit from new and creative energy so as to continue to improve on the number of programs that can change the lives of the children - and the families - that appear before it.
The court needs to be forward thinking and should work with our schools, our community, and our local businesses so as to reach out and address the various needs of the children before they come before the court. I believe juvenile court can be more successful with more robust early intervention programs.
2. Expediency: I also believe the court needs to continue to improve upon the prompt administration of decisions when it comes to objections and appeals. There are still too many delays in moving cases forward in an efficient manner, and I believe we as a court system can improve in this area.
C Ralph Wilcoxson II: Racial and ethnic disparities weaken the credibility of a justice system that purports to treat everyone equitably.
Across the country, and specifically in Montgomery County, Ohio juvenile justice systems are marked by disparate racial outcomes at every stage of the process, starting with more frequent arrests for youth of color and ending with more frequent secure placement.
Judicial, legal, law enforcement, justice, social service and school professionals should eliminate racial and ethnic disparities by being culturally aware and ensuring impartial and equal access to culturally-competent prevention and intervention services and treatment for youth charged with status offenses and their families.
Parental Responsibility/Accountability The U.S. Supreme Court has held that parents have a fundamental right to rear their children without undue interference by the government. (Pierce v. Society of Sisters.) The court has also indicated the right carries significant responsibility.
Q: Is the goal of juvenile justice rehabilitation or correction and why?
Jeff Rezabek: I believe the goal of juvenile court is to assist and work the children (and their families) that appear before the court as they are often in trouble or crisis.
In working with children who come before the court, we must work with that child and their family to address their specific issues.
We should strive to correct the behavior, but also be mindful of the safety of our community. Additionally, when working with the families that come before the court, we must strive to assist and work with them to effectively deal with any family issue that may have brought them to us. But we should do so in a way that keeps the best interest of the child as the forefront of any decision.
C Ralph Wilcoxson II: Rehabilitation is the goal of juvenile court. That does not mean that there cannot be some correction in the process. First let me indicate clearly that most youth issues can be addressed in the community and there is no need to place them in a detention setting.
When there is a need to remove a youth from the community to either protect the community or the child or both. We must focus our attention, and the court is in the unique position unique position to help equip and prepare them for a return to the community.
Juvenile court should be built to assist children, who have made a bad decision, make better informed decisions that will ultimately enhance the lives of their family and the health of the community.
Q: Should juvenile offenders, especially violent ones with convictions, get to have their names out of public records because they are juveniles?
Jeff Rezabek: I believe this is a question that needs to be resolved in the legislature with public input.
However, what can be said is that if an adjudicated child is rehabilitated and successfully works with the juvenile court (with all of the services provided), then maybe that individual child should have that second chance and not be permanently labeled for making bad decisions early in his or her life.
C Ralph Wilcoxson II: Juvenile offenders are not convicted they are found responsible. Convictions are for adults.
If the court determines that youth are not amenable to treatment and there is a compelling reason to transfer the youth and try him/her as an adult then a conviction is appropriate. If there is a conviction the names should be in the public record.
Part for the juvenile court’s charge is to protect juvenile offenders from the stigma of incarceration and the things that attach in adult court i.e. having their name in the public record. Juvenile court is different from adult court on purpose.
If we determine that kids ought to be treated as if they were adults then why have a separate juvenile division? If that is our determination then we have lost our way.
COVERING ALL SIDES
We reached out to the candidates in the local area who are on the May 8 ballot. Learn more about them and the issues in our interactive voters guide at vote.daytondailynews.com
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