The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 22, 2012

Western County judge to step down

Star Beacon

— Long-time Western County Court Judge Richard Stevens will step down from the bench at the end of this year, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Stevens will retire almost 30 years to the day he was appointed to the post by then-governor James Rhodes.

Ashtabula County Commissioner Daniel Claypool on Wednesday confirmed Stevens recently submitted a letter to commissioners stating he will depart at the end of December. One reason given was a desire to devote more time to his private law practice, Claypool said. The county’s Eastern and Western court judgeships are part-time positions, and office-holders are permitted to maintain an outside practice.

Stevens could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday. He was elected to a new, six-year term in November 2010, according to Ashtabula County Board of Elections records. Stevens was unopposed in the election.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich will appoint Stevens’ successor, said Charlie Frye, chairman of the Ashtabula County Republican Party. Local GOP leaders have contacted a governor liaison to explain the nomination process, Frye said.

“We’re waiting to get word from the governor’s office on the procedure,” he said.

It’s expected the party will submit three names to Kasich for consideration, but the governor is free to explore other candidates, Frye said. “We’ll give him three names, but he can go a different route,” he said.

Stevens, a Jefferson native, was a teacher and construction worker when he decided to pursue his dream of attending law school. He graduated from Ohio Northern University in 1976 and set up a practice in Geneva. Stevens succeeded Robert Webb as Western County Court judge, and officially began his duties on Dec. 30, 1982. He was 35 years old at the time.

Frye praised Stevens as a “judge who is well-respected across party lines.”

Two Republicans sought law-related jobs in the Nov. 6 election could be among the GOP’s recommendations. Gary Pasqualone of Geneva challenged incumbent Eastern County Court Judge Robert Wynn, and was defeated by just 133 unofficial votes. There’s a good chance an automatic recount could occur after the Ashtabula County Board of Elections certifies the official results on Tuesday.

Another possible nominee could be David Schroeder, Conneaut’s law director who unsuccessfully tried to unseat County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini earlier this month. Schroeder was beaten by 1,369 unofficial votes.