Putnam County - On Nov. 3, registered voters in Putnam County will elect a slate of officials to fill county-level positions. While several candidates are running unopposed, three key seats - Court of Common Pleas Juvenile/Probate Judge, Recorder, and Commissioner - are contested. Over the coming weeks, the Sentinel will offer insights into these candidates through their responses to three basic questions. This week features incumbent Michael Borer and Matthew Cunningham, both of whom are vying for a seat as Probate/Juvenile Judge.

Michael Borer

What qualifications do you bring to the position of Common Pleas Court Juvenile/Probate Judge?

Experience.

I have been Putnam County’s Probate/Juvenile Judge since 2011. Since then I have handled nearly 10,000 probate/juvenile cases.

Innovation. I have established programs to benefit juvenile probationers, i.e., Make the Grade program, Mock Interview program. I worked with Crime Victim Services to develop the CASA program for use in child custody cases. I co-operated with former Judge Randall Basinger to bring the pro se clinic to Putnam County, to assist those who appear in court without counsel.

Co-operation. I meet annually with the County Schools Superintendents and Principals to address issues we share and to support them in providing the best learning environment possible. I, through my probation department, assumed responsibility for the Schools truancy program after the ESC lost funding for its truancy officer. I became certified to act as Municipal Court Judge saving the County thousands of dollars.

Outreach. I have given presentations to students regarding the misuse of alcohol, the dangers of opioid abuse, and the potential consequences of inappropriate use of phones and social media.

Experience. My time as Judge has acquainted me with the challenges the Court faces and makes me the most qualified candidate to address them.

Should politics/party affiliation play a role in the election of a judge? Please explain your position.

The Columbus Bar Association says this about judicial elections:

“Ohio’s judicial elections are non-partisan.

Due to the non-partisan nature of a judge’s role Ohio law does not permit the identification of political party on the ballot for judicial candidates.”

This was more succinctly stated by a supporter who said “A judge’s allegiance should be to the law not a political party!” I agree wholeheartedly.

A judge’s responsibility is to apply the facts given to enacted law, and to do so without bias or partisan concerns. Partisan politics have never played a role in my actions as a Judge. I have hired several employees since I became Judge in 2011, I have never asked an interviewee his/her party affiliation. I wanted the best candidate for the job, the person who could best handle the duties and responsibilities of the position.

I believe that most of Putnam County agrees, and having already elected me to this position both in 2012 and 2014 will vote for the candidate they believe most qualified to perform the duties and accept the responsibilities of Judge of the Putnam County Probate/Juvenile Court.

What do you perceive as the most significant challenges related to the position of Juvenile/Probate Court Judge?

I see two significant challenges facing the Court, I expect that they will ultimately intertwine.

The first is the significant increase in the number and severity of Abuse, Neglect, Dependency cases. Many of these cases, unfortunately result in the permanent removal of children from their parents care and custody. This upsurge is the clear result of the increase of drug use and abuse within the County.

The second is the lack of resources available to care for children with significant, mental, psychological, and emotional disorders; both in financial expenditures and available facilities. It is not uncommon for placement of a juvenile in one of these facilities to cost as much as $400/day, and even the least expensive exceed $200/day. Many of these placements last for years.

Beyond the financial cost, some children as a result of their multi diagnosis are virtually unplaceable. In one case only one facility east of the Mississippi even responded to our placement inquiry.

As the children who are suffering abuse, and being removed from their homes mature, they will further stress the finite resources available. My experience in these cases will prove invaluable in maximizing these resources.


Matthew Cunningham

What qualifications do you bring to the position of Common Pleas Court Juvenile/Probate Judge?

I have been a practicing attorney for the last 21 years. Because a large portion of my practice included cases involving probate and juvenile matters, I have the experience needed for the position of Juvenile/Probate Judge.

On the probate side, I have represented families in administering the estate of a loved one. I have also been appointed to serve as executor on several estates. I have been appointed to serve as guardian of individuals caring for their welfare and managing their assets.

On the juvenile side, I have represented juveniles who were in trouble and the parents of juveniles in custody disputes.

For the last 21 years, family law is a large part of my work. I know full well the disruption and difficulty families have with dealing with the court system.

In addition, I have been a Magistrate for last three years in the Findlay Municipal Court. The Magistrate position has given me the judicial experience of analyzing the facts of a case and applying the law as written by the legislature.

I bring to the Probate/Juvenile court both my experience as a practicing attorney and my judicial experience as a Magistrate.

Should politics/party affiliation play a role in the election of a judge? Please explain your position.

For the upcoming November 3rd general election, the judicial candidates will not have an R or a D next to their name on the ballot. This is because judges do not make decisions based on political affiliations, but instead, judges make decisions based on the merits of the case.

On the other hand, there is a growing belief among voters that not providing a party designation to judicial candidates does a disservice to the voter when filling out his or her ballot. Even though there is no party affiliation on the general ballot, party affiliation does play a role in the selection of a judge during the primary election process.

During the primary process, the Republican party selects their candidate and the Democrat party selects their candidate to run against each other in the general election. For the November 3rd election, the Republican party selected Matthew Cunningham, and the Democrat party selected Michael Borer.

Regardless of my personal party affiliation, if I am elected to serve as Putnam County’s Probate/Juvenile Judge, I will always decide cases on the facts striving to be fair and impartial to each person who appears before me.

What do you perceive as the most significant challenges related to the position of Juvenile/Probate Judge?

As it relates to children, the most significant challenge is maintaining parental involvement and a stable home life. If more children had a strong family foundation there would be fewer delinquency matters for the court.

Additionally, there is an unfortunate, but growing need for improved mental health services for the children of Putnam County. Our county also needs more volunteers to serve as advocates for children and guardians for aging adults unable to make sound decisions for themselves or properly care for themselves.

Recruiting and training volunteers to serve these vulnerable populations is a growing challenge in our community; a challenge I am ready to tackle.