The Stark County Republican Party took the first step Tuesday toward replacing retiring Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Lee Sinclair. The party’s executive committee selected three candidates. Gov. John Kasich will make the appointment.
Stark County Republicans nominated three candidates Tuesday night to become the newest Stark County Common Pleas judge.
• Lori A. Flowers, a magistrate, staff attorney and bailiff for Common Pleas Judge Kristin Farmer. Flowers also worked in the same positions for former Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown.
• Jean Madden, a magistrate in Alliance Municipal Court who also spent many years as Stark County’s assistant public defender.
• Curt Werren, a local attorney who is chief executive officer of the Stark County chapter of the American Red Cross.
The meeting to vote on the three candidates was at Malone University’s Johnson Center on Cleveland Avenue NW.
Also up for consideration was Matthew Kuhn, an attorney in the Stark County Public Defender’s Office.
The names, selected by the local Republican Party’s executive committee, will be given to Gov. John Kasich, who will make the appointment to fill the vacancy created by retiring Judge Lee Sinclair.
Each candidate will be interviewed by a committee in Columbus before Kasich makes his decision.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Canton Municipal Judge Stephen F. Belden withdrew his name from consideration. James Mathews initially asked to be considered for Common Pleas Court judge but also withdrew.
Belden had been among the three finalists to replace Brown, a job that went to Farmer.
Recounting his interview in Columbus for that position, Belden told the executive committee that he “crashed and burned.”
He said one of the primary issues was the controversy that resulted from him ordering that the mouth of an argumentative defendant be muzzled with duct tape in 2009. The order was captured on the courtroom’s audio and video system.
“Being the realist I’m supposed to be, I’m never going to get appointed,” Belden said. “And it would be selfish of me and unfair (to the other candidates) ... to send me (to Columbus.)”
During his remarks, Sinclair called the decision “brave” and “courageous.”
Madden said she would put in the long hours required to run an efficient and effective court. As a magistrate in Alliance Municipal Court, she said she has handled both novel and complex issues.
Flowers said she is the only candidate with experience presiding over cases in Common Pleas Court. She said she would not have a learning curve for conducting criminal pretrials and sentencing hearings.
Werren said he gained valuable political experience while campaigning unsuccessfully for a Canton City Council seat. He said he’s practiced law for 20 years and touted his management experience overseeing the local Red Cross office.
Citing his experience as a public defender, Kuhn said he would have brought a “unique perspective” to serving as a judge. He also worked as an intern in the Massillon prosecutor’s office.