After six years on the bench, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi has shown himself to be effective, and we believe his work has earned him another term.
Miraldi, a Democrat, is the only county judge who faces an opponent in the general election this year. His Republican opponent is Elyria defense attorney Jenifer Berki Merrill.
We found Berki Merrill to be more experienced and prepared as a candidate than she was two years ago, when she unsuccessfully ran for the Domestic Relations Court seat now held by Judge Sherry Glass. Despite that, she failed to make the case for why she should replace Miraldi.
Her argument for unseating Miraldi largely boiled down to what she saw as his inexperience in criminal matters before he took the bench. He was a civil lawyer before winning election six years ago.
We don't dispute that Berki Merrill has more experience as a lawyer in criminal matters, but Miraldi now has six years of overseeing criminal cases as a judge under his belt, which more than makes up for any inexperience he once had.
Similar criticism can be leveled at Berki Merrill in terms of civil litigation. Although she has done some civil work, the bulk of her practice has been criminal law. She said she would compensate for that by ensuring that whoever she hired as a staff attorney was well-versed in civil law.
We have been impressed over the years with the level-headed and compassionate way Miraldi conducts himself from the bench.
There are surely some who would take issue with his rulings or feel that he has treated them unfairly in either public or private. However, from what we have seen, Miraldi has acted in a fair and impartial manner in the courtroom, treating defendants, victims and others who appear before him with respect.
One of Miraldi's chief accomplishments has been the creation and oversight of the county's Recovery Court, which specializes in helping low-level offenders hooked on opioids break their addiction.
It's a demanding program for those who get in, and Miraldi said the success rate was around 50 percent. There have been growing pains for the court, including a participant who needed the anti-overdose drug naloxone after passing out during a court appearance.
However, opioid addiction is notoriously difficult to beat and based on that we would rate the Recovery Court a success. It might not work for everyone, but those who have succeeded may just owe their lives to their participation.
When it comes to candidates, we tend to value experience, which we believe Miraldi has. We also look at the ratings of judicial candidates issued by the Lorain County Bar Association.
When the results came out earlier this year, Berki Merrill received a "not recommended" rating. Miraldi, by comparison, came "highly recommended."
Berki Merrill argued that the Bar Association's system, which is based on anonymous ratings from local attorneys, was political and unfair. She said the process allowed roughly 30 people to give her the lowest markings in all categories as part of what she viewed as an effort to sabotage her candidacy. Without those negative reviews, she said, she would have been "recommended."
Even if Berki Merrill is right about the bar's methodology, it doesn't negate the fact that Miraldi faced the same risk and came out with a glowing recommendation from his peers.
If Miraldi has a vulnerability this election, it stems from two issues that were beyond his control.
First, he shares a last name with another county judge, his cousin, James Miraldi, who has drawn the ire of some of the public with his decision to grant judicial release to Adrianna Young, who lost control of her vehicle and struck a home, killing a mother and seriously injuring a child. Young pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, tampering with evidence and possession of marijuana, and served about eight months of a 4 -year prison sentence.
John Miraldi cannot be held responsible for the decision of another judge. The same holds true for the actions of his son, Jeffrey Miraldi, who is awaiting sentencing on involuntary manslaughter and other charges for his role in the fatal shooting death of Cody Snyder during a botched drug deal. The alleged shooter in that case, Kajaun Anderson, is awaiting trial and is represented by Berki Merrill.
The younger Miraldi had borrowed the judge's car, which is where the shooting took place, but John Miraldi committed no crime, and, as we have argued before, should not be punished for the sins of his son. (An outside prosecutor and judge have been appointed to handle the case.)
As a judge, Miraldi is responsible for his own actions and decisions. We believe he has the right combination of experience, legal acumen and temperament to continue ably to serve the people of Lorain County.
County voters would be well-served to re-elect John Miraldi.