Niles native in running for judge

LISBON — Niles native Vito Abruzzino is among three attorneys the Columbiana County Republican Party recommended to replace county Municipal Court Judge Charles “Chris” Amato.

The GOP voted at Wednesday’s central and executive committee to forward Abruzzino’s name, as well as Tim McNicol, an assistant county prosecutor, and Amanda Banner, Columbiana city law director, for Gov. John Kasich to consider.

Amato announced last week he was stepping down Feb. 2 to care for a family member. Since Amato is a Republican, the county GOP is tasked with recommending up to three possible replacements for Kasich to choose from.

“I think any of the three candidates would be outstanding,” said Columbiana Republican Party Chairman David Johnson. “They are relatively young attorneys, well respected for their abilities and how they conduct themselves.”

The three were the only persons to apply and be interviewed by the ad hoc screening committee Johnson created. He said J. Bradley Allison, a Columbiana Common Pleas Court domestic relations magistrate, also had applied but later withdrew from consideration prior to the interviews.

Allison was among three persons recommended when Kasich appointed Amato in 2015 to replace Judge Carol Robb after she was elected to the Ohio 7th District Court of Appeals. The third candidate then was Megan Bickerton, an assistant county prosecutor and Lisbon village solicitor. Bickerton is reportedly interested in running for county Common Pleas Court judge this year.

Abruzzino lives in Perry Township and is an attorney at the Salem law offices of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, which also has an office in downtown Warren. He is a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, where he is a deputy staff judge advocate assigned to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna.

Johnson said Abruzzino is originally from Niles but moved to Salem after marrying a local woman. “Someone in the legal community who I respect told me I should seek him out,” he said.

Johnson expects some will question the decision to include McNicol, a longtime Democrat who switched to the GOP following the 2014 elections. He said McNicol asked to meet with him after changing parties to tell him he was interested in becoming active in the party and believes his motives are genuine.

“What better way to broaden the base of the party than to include a Democrat who wants to be part of our party?” Johnson said.

McNicol, who is from Wellsville, has 26 years of experience as trial attorney, magistrate, city law director and village solicitor, and assistant prosecutor.

Banner, who resides in Columbiana, has been an attorney since 2000 and in private practice in Columbiana since 2010.

Johnson said qualifications are obviously the most important consideration, but candidates must also be willing to do what it takes to run for office.

“We look at credentials and electability because whoever is appointed has to be willing to run for office when their term is up,” he said. “There is a political side to the job and they must be willing to campaign.”

Giambroni is a reporter for the (Lisbon) Morning Journal.