Two vie for Niles Municipal Court bench

NILES — Two candidates will face off in November to replace Niles Municipal Court Judge Thomas Townley, who will retire at the end of the year.

Democrat Chris Shaker, 59, and independent Kara Stanford, 35, both Niles attorneys, are seeking the seat.

Shaker, who received his Juris Doctor from Capital University Law School and a Bachelor of Science degree in social work from The Ohio State University, has been a lawyer for 34 years and works with his brother Bob at Shaker & Shaker Law Firm. He served as an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor from 1984 to 1999 and also served as an assistant Ohio attorney general.

Shaker, who has received endorsements from several labor unions, said being a municipal court judge has everything to do with having the right qualifications and experience. Spending 15 years as a prosecutor and several decades in private practice has given him a wealth of knowledge in terms of dealing with people on both sides of the legal system, he said.

Operating a law firm also provides an insight into the business world, he said, and having an educational background in social work has helped him when it comes to understanding people and their problems.

Shaker said he has served on a local bank board, park board and various charitable and social clubs, and believes his business experience in operating a law firm would serve him well while working as a judge in a city that’s in fiscal emergency.

Shaker said if elected, he would like to hire a hard-working and capable clerk of courts, be a good steward of finances since Niles is in fiscal emergency, and serve with integrity, impartiality and independence.

Stanford received her Juris Doctor, Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University. She has also received an endorsement from one local trade union, has been a lawyer with Blair & Latell Co. since 2009 and previously worked as a legal consultant for irenttoown.com.

Stanford, who filed as an independent in the nonpartisan general election, said she is the best candidate because she has a background in not only law but also business.

Stanford said the first and foremost role of a judge is to administer the law, and her legal education and background has given her such experience.

Judges also have to serve and facilitate the general administration court and it’s daily operations, she said, and having a business degree and background would be beneficial in the sense of daily court operation and management.

Stanford said one of her goals, if elected, is to create special dockets and diversion programs through collaboration with the Ohio Supreme Court to address mental health and substance abuse issues while aiming to reduce recidivism while tackling issues that might require special attention.

She said she also would like to implement an electronic monitoring program for those on house arrest. Other area courts utilize such systems regularly, she said, both as conditions of bond and for purposes of sentencing. Another thing she said she would like to do is examine collection efforts within the court and making sure payment schedules are being maintained.

“There are some practices already in place at the court but I would like to expand on those and monitor compliance with payment plans,” Stanford said. “I think addressing and maintaining collection of fines is a fiscal responsibility for managing the court’s operations.”