My name is Joseph Kearns, and I am the right choice for your next juvenile and probate judge in the Republican primary, March 17.

With more than 25 years experience in those courts, and as an acting judge in the Ashland Municipal Court, I have the most experience. I was born and raised in Ashland and have a strong connection to the county.

I have been involved in various community activities that have benefited and assisted juveniles. I have been involved in High School Mock Trial over the course of my career where I was legal advisor for the Hillsdale Mock Trial team, have assisted as needed with the Ashland High School Mock Trial team, and have been a judge at the state championship in Columbus including the quarter and semi finals for the past several years. I was also a past board member for the Ashland County Mental Health and Recovery Board for eight years.

The Juvenile and Probate Court is a very involved court that requires a judge who is willing to work 10 or more hours per day, as well as the weekends. I am committed to putting in that time to effectively perform my duties.

I have represented hundreds of clients over the years in Juvenile and Probate Court, not only on private basis, but also as court appointed counsel to ensure access to justice. I have represented juveniles who have faced delinquency charges, and parents who have had their children removed from their care. I have also taken on numerous cases, in both the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court as guardian ad litem. In that role, I perform an investigation and look out for the best interests of the child or children.

The challenges facing the court are more complex than they were 23 years ago. Where the court then would hear maybe 49 abuse, dependency and neglect cases per year, now it is not uncommon to hear between 130 and 190 per year. Those are the cases that result in children being removed and placed into foster care. As a result of an increase in those cases, the number of children in foster care also has increased.

As judge, I want to get those numbers down and have the children either placed back into their homes, upon a showing of commitment, stability and suitability by the parents, or placed in another, least-restrictive, loving and stable environment. To do this, I would have cases set and heard on a regular and frequent basis. I would schedule pretrials to check on the progress of the cases, and would keep an open line of communication with the Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Another issue that I will address is the drug crisis. Our children are adversely affected by the large increase in the use of illegal drugs, not only by adults in their lives, but by the children themselves. This includes dangerous heroin and methamphetamine. In those cases, I would assess the situation and have the child attend all necessary treatment programs. I would look for new programs that could be implemented to help the children. I would also directly address the parents and see what is happening at home.

Over the past 23 years, while the abuse, dependency and neglect cases have surged, delinquency cases have more than halved. But they are still very important. I will be judicious in each delinquency case as to how to address the offense, the child, and the punishment, as well as the rehabilitation. Not all juveniles will require detention. Some would be better served by probation and monitoring, or counseling.

Juvenile Court requires the right temperament to be able to listen and understand the positions of the parties. But it also requires an ability to make decisions and be firm when necessary. I have a proven track record of being able to work with administrative agency personnel, law enforcement, and parties in cases.