Ohio2006 Blog

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Wednesday, September 13

Cuyahoga Common Pleas Ct: Blum (D) Meets the Bloggers

Last Friday I attended a Meet the Bloggers interview with Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas candidate Suzanne Bretz Blum (D-Cleveland) at the new MTB Suite in Cleveland's hip Tower Press Building. Tim and Gloria Ferris, Jill Miller Zimon, and the redoubtable George "Cool Cleveland" Nemeth were also there. The audio (or a transcript) can be obtained here.

Blum (rhymes with thumb, as in "Thumbs Up!") is a newcomer to politics and her path to this point has been unusual. Blum is guided by a team of friends, relatives, and volunteers that she calls her "kitchen cabinet." They meet monthly to talk over her campaign. The team developed her "Thumbs Up!" logo and "Get Justice Done" slogan in order to combine a positive message with an clue as to the correct pronunciation of her surname.

It was a blow for Blum to lose the county party endorsement to primary opponent Edele Passalacqua but Blum persevered, talking to activists before and after Democratic club meetings when she or her representative wasn't allowed to address the group directly. In the end she won the primary, but only by a relative handful of the many thousands of votes cast. Afterward, her primary opponent called and offered to help Blum with her campaign.

Blum said that her civil litigation and diplomacy skills are her biggest strengths as a judicial candidate. Lack of criminal litigation experience is her weakness. However, she now serves as a magistrate in charge of the Juvenile Diversion Program of the Shaker Heights Municipal Court, where she deals with misdemeanor offenders daily. The goal of that program is to impose community service and other alternative sanctions on juvenile first offenders instead of putting them into the regular juvenile justice system.

In fact, restorative justice, a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior, is a big part of Blum's judicial philosophy and a cornerstone of her campaign, and we talked about it quite a bit. Restorative justice brings a community focus to punishment, with the offender required to be personally involved in repairing the damage done to the victim. It should include both community service and education. Blum would like to bring restorative justice concepts to the Court of Common Pleas, including greater use of community sanctions, which Blum said costs less than incarceration and leads to less repeat offending. She said that city council members have told her that community service is in fact helpful and of value. However, she is quick to acknowledge that many felons are dangerous or otherwise deserving of harsher punishment than community service.

I asked Blum her view on electing judges as opposed to appointing them, as is done in some other states. She said that her experience of winning the primary without the party endorsement strengthened her belief in the ability of the voting public to make good decisions about judges, despite such well-known difficulties as surname confusion. On that score, it is worth noting that her opponent, Judge Kathleen Sutula (R-Cleveland), has the same last name as her cousin who is a Democratic judge. Kathleen Sutula has been criticized for treating people in her courtroom with something less than courtesy and respect, a failing that Blum pledges to avoid.

This candidate made a very good impression on me. She is somewhat soft-spoken but firm, very serious and thoughtful, and is highly knowledgeable about litigation and theories of justice. I think she has an appropriate temperament and demeanor for the job, and she has displayed admirable creativity and determination in her campaign.

12 Comments:

At 1:49 PM, Blogger superstar said...

just a good life

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Blum qualified?

According to the judicial candidate ratings website
http://www.judge4yourself.com/ratings_2006_primaryD.html, Blum received a 0.4 overall rating, with "not recommended" endorsements from four different bar associations. In contrast, Blum's primary opponent, Edele Passalacqua, received an overall 2.6 rating and several "good" endorsements.

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Yes, it's true that her ratings in the primary weren't good. I attribute that to her lack of criminal litigation experience. I think she is qualified anyway, despite the poor marks, because of her civil litigation experience at a quality firm (Thompson, Hine & Flory), her work as a magistrate and assisting in the prosecution of attorneys for unethical conduct with the Office of the Bar Counsel in Washington, DC, and her long record of community service (New Leadership Roundtable of the Nat'l Conference for Community and Justice, Chair of the Committee on Homelessness at the Cleveland Bar Ass'n, trustee of the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, trustee of Housing Advocates, Inc., etc.). I think she's an intelligent, determined lawyer who's dedicated to public service. Works for me.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Tim Ferris said...

After the interview, YDS, I heard a bit of scuttlebutt about Kathleen Sutula, her rumored change of political party after this election, and a subsequent run for a to-be-vacated probate court seat. I was wondering if "anonymous" knew anything about these things that would affect voters' opinions of Sutula's present candidacy, were she candid and forthcoming.

 
At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Heartbreak Kid said...

Tim Ferris-

I'd love to know where you got your "rumors" because they are patently untrue. Kathleen Sutula has no interest whatsoever in doing probate work. Moreover, she will NOT be switching parties.

Also, I find it interesting that Blum 1) mis-states Sutula's experience as Sutula has been on the bench since 1991 and was retained in 1992, and subsequently re-elected in 1994 and 2000- in the first two elections she beat Sweeneys (as good a "judicial" name as one will find) and in 2000 beat an O'Donnell in each of those years there were multiple Sweeneys or O'Donnells running (in some cases statewide); 2) regarding the name game, Kathleen Sutula was a judge for nine years before John Sutula decided to run for judge, so how can she be blamed for playing the name game (especially when the two Sutulas are as different as night and day)?

The rumors that surround Sutula are laughable. When Anne Kilbane died in 2004, people said with certainty that she was going to either apply for that opening or was going to run for the court of appeals in 2006. That didn't happen, and now she's going to run for probate judge? When are either John E. or Donnelly are planning on retiring?

Blum may or may not be qualified, but the debate is best served by keeping unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo out of it. If you have any questions for Kathleen Sutula, you may as well ask her. If nothing else, she's upfront and brutally honest to a fault. Contact information can be found at www.cuyahogacounty.us. I suspect, however, that you won't.

 
At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Laborguy said...

Hey YDS, the website link for Blum should be www.blumforjudge.org. Just fyi.

 
At 12:15 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Thanks, Laborguy. I fixed it.

Tim, I am waiting on a call back from a direct source to confirm what you are saying.

Heartbreak Kid, I will call Sutula for a response if the story is confirmed to me.

 
At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YDS-

Thanks. That's all I can ask.

 
At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Heartbreak Kid said...

Sorry, last post was from HBK.

 
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At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts said...

Great post :)

 
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