6 apply for empty appeals judge seat

Candidates include judge whose spot Lynch won in Nov.

WARREN — Six people applied to be appointed to a judicial seat on the 11th District Court of Appeals that will be vacated Tuesday.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, will select the next judge. Dan Tierney, his spokesman, said he can’t comment on when the appointment will be made.

“We’re aware of the impending vacancy and have started our work on it,” Tierney said. “We’ll be meeting with the candidates, getting input from the local (Republican parties in the district) and working with the (Ohio) Supreme Court. There are things that have to happen” before an appointment is made.

The deadline to apply for the job has passed, Tierney said.

The vacancy was created by Judge Matt Lynch, a Republican from Bainbridge, who’s actually not leaving the Warren-based court of appeals.

Lynch was elected to the court in November 2018 and started serving a six-year term Feb. 10, 2019. Less than a year into that term, he filed for a separate seat on the court — challenging incumbent Judge Timothy P. Cannon, a Painesville Democrat, during the November 2020 election.

Lynch said he filed because “I don’t think anyone should run unopposed,” and Cannon had “been there for a long time.”

Lynch beat Cannon by 11 percentage points in November. The six-year term starts Tuesday.

By winning, Lynch was able to extend his time on the court of appeals by two years as he is barred from running for another term because of the state’s age-limit on judges. Lynch is 69. Once a person turns 70, he / she cannot run for a judicial position under state law.

Lynch also said he was running because Cannon was going to be unopposed and if he won, DeWine would appoint a replacement. That likely will add another Republican to the court.

The 11th District Court includes Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Portage counties.

Those who’ve applied to be appointed:

• Cannon, who in a twist is seeking the seat currently held by Lynch, who beat him in the general election. Cannon was appointed to the court in 2007 by then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a fellow Democrat.

He was elected to six-year terms in 2008 and 2014 before losing to Lynch last year and is the most senior judge on the 11th District bench. Because Cannon is a Democrat, an appointment by DeWine is unlikely.

• Sarah Thomas Kovoor of Howland, a Republican who ran last year for a different seat on the court of appeals, losing by 2 percent to Democrat Cynthia Rice. She lost by 1 percent in 2018 in her bid for a seat on Trumbull County Family Court.

Kovoor has been in private practice since 2001 and served in the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office from 1998 to 2002.

• Natasha K. Natale of Warren, an associate assistant Ohio attorney general since October 2018 based out of the department’s downtown Youngstown office. She prosecutes sexually based offenses against women and children including felony-level sexual offenses, child pornography, murder and child endangering cases in eastern Ohio.

Natale worked from January 2016 to October 2018 as a Portage County Common Pleas Court magistrate and was an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor from August 2006 to January 2016 in the violent and sexual crimes unit.

• Connie J. Lewandowski of Aurora, senior assistant prosecuting attorney at the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office since 2017 and an assistant prosecutor there since 2007.

Lewandowski was a chief assistant Summit County prosecutor from 2004 to 2007, a senior assistant Summit County prosecutor from 1994 to 2004, and chief administrative hearing officer at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office from 1992 to 1994.

• Carl L. DiFranco, a mediator with the Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court since 2019.

DiFranco was appointed Conneaut Municipal Court judge in April 2015 by then-Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and then elected that November to the rest of an unexpired term, winning by 19 votes.

When DiFranco ran for re-election in 2019, he lost 1,700 to 852 to Nicholas Iarocci.

Before serving on the Conneaut court, DiFranco was an acting judge in the Painesville Municipal Court from 2005 to 2015 while also an associate attorney in a Painesville law firm from 2007 to 2015.

• Pamela D. Kurt, who has been managing member of the Kurt Law Office in Wickliffe since 2008.

She also is a majority member in Cardenas, Ruple, Kurt LLC in Willoughby since 2019.

Kurt served as Cleveland’s fair housing administrator from July 2006 to March 2008 and was the Cuyahoga County Bar Association’s grievance and lawyer / client relations director from 2005 to 2006.


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