My name is David M. Hunter. I am a Republican candidate for Ashland County Juvenile and Probate Court judge. My wife, Criss, and I reside outside of Perrysville with our two children, Kacie and Bradan.

For the past 23 years, I have been practicing law in Loudonville, which has allowed me to handle juvenile and probate cases in Ashland and surrounding counties. I have represented parents in private custody cases, served as court appointed counsel for parents and juveniles in Ashland, Holmes and Knox counties and have been appointed as guardian ad litem for children in Ashland, Holmes and Knox counties. Practicing in these courts has given me a broad perspective on the Juvenile Court system, issues facing families and juveniles as well as different methods for dealing with these issues.

I have served the Ashland Probate Court as court appointed administrator of estates, court investigator and guardian for incompetent adults and minors, as well as being appointed by the VA as VA payee for veterans in need of assistance.

Generally speaking, the Probate Court in Ashland County, which handles estates, guardianships, adoption and name change proceedings, is pleading driven and is not in need of any major changes.

The Juvenile Court, which handles abuse, neglect and dependency cases filed by JFS, juvenile traffic, juvenile delinquency, child support and private custody cases, is more litigation/courtroom driven. The biggest issues facing the Juvenile Court are: the number of children in foster care, the use of drugs by parents and children in Ashland County, and the number of private custody cases.

As Juvenile/Probate judge, the primary focus is looking out for the best interest of the children — giving children stability in their life — not just physical stability but emotional stability as well. I would like to address the foster care situation from the court’s perspective by changing the process by which we handle abuse, neglect and dependency cases. I want to increase court involvement in those cases by having more regular review hearings — which will allow the court to discuss the cases with all parties involved to determine progress of the parents and address any additional needed services. This will enable the court to be involved in placing the children in safe environments and bringing stability into their lives sooner.

In an effort to address the drug use issue, in addition to working with community groups and other providers, I want to bring programs to the Juvenile Court that will assist families dealing with drug and other issues to make the home environment better for the children. There are drug court programs and multi-systemic approach programs available to juvenile courts through grants to assist juveniles and their families with the issues facing them.

I want to address the method by which we handle private custody cases as well. I believe having pre-trials in these matters will assist the parties and the court in identifying the issues, addressing temporary orders and scheduling the cases accordingly.

While the juvenile law system is moving away from detention of youth in delinquency cases unless the facts and/or particular circumstances warrant it, I believe where we house our delinquent youth needs to be reviewed and/or the technology of the court needs to be upgraded to create efficiencies for all involved.

Finally, education is important and that is why I have been involved in the local schools as a reading mentor, board member, scholarship presenter and most recently as chair of the Ashland Bookcase Project. As judge, I want to continue working with students by involving myself with all of the schools who have students that reside in Ashland County. I want to conduct forums with the students to educate them on the legal/social issues (sexting, drug use, bullying, etc.) they face every day — in an effort to deter them from appearing in court.

I would appreciate your vote on March 17, 2020.