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VOTE 2024


Cuyahoga County incarcerates far more people than any county in the state, and dramatically more Clevelanders than people from any other city in the county.  Our County Jail has continued to be a hotbed of abuse and neglect where multiple people die every year.  Most people incarcerated in the jail have not been convicted of a crime, and most will never see their day in court due to the pressure to take plea deals.

The communities and demographics that bear the brunt of these justice policies are poorly represented among the people with the power to decide them.  The County Prosecutor and the Court of Common Pleas Judges have enormous influence over the lives and safety of everyone in our community, and all of these are elected positions.

But due to a lack of good information, an overwhelming number of races, and a deep disillusionment with the system, many people choose not to vote in these races at all.  We believe that’s a mistake. 

WE WANT TO MAKE IT EASY.  And that's why we have collected information here on all of the justice-related races that will be appearing on the primary ballot this month.  Where appropriate, we have also linked to the voter guides compiled by Signal Cleveland and The Marshall Project, who have conducted numerous interviews and assembled detailed profiles on every candidate.  All credit to their excellent reporting work on these upcoming races.


By the time the general election rolls around, most of these positions will have already been decided.  As a policy of our organization, we do not make endorsements.  What we have tried to present is an objective record of who the candidates are, their backgrounds, and what they have promised to do in office.  The rest is up to you.


MARCH 19TH, 2024

Candidates with their names in Blue are running in the Democratic Primary

Candidates with their names in Red are running in the Republican Primary

Candidates with a * by their name are incumbents or already hold an equivalent position




As the individual who sets policy and priorities for over 230 prosecuting attorneys representing Cuyahoga County, the County Prosecutor (known as the District Attorney in other jurisdictions) is one of the most powerful elected positions in our community.


When someone is arrested, it’s the prosecutor’s office that determines what to charge them with before the case is brought to the grand jury for indictment.  The Prosecutor’s office also has the ability to give recommendations on bail and sentencing, and while the judge overseeing a case has final say, they often follow those recommendations.  This gives Prosecutors powerful influence over what happens to defendants throughout the entire legal process.  Most cases end when a defendant takes a plea deal with the prosecutor, which typically means they waive their right to a trial in exchange for reduced charges.  In the event that a case does go to trial, it is the prosecutor's office that collects and studies the evidence from police in order to build a case against the defendant, including by selecting witnesses.  Prosecutors also have the ability to strike people from juries if they believe they will be biased.

County Prosecutors are sometimes known as the "top cop", and while they have no direct oversight of the police, they serve as a liaison between police and the court.  Many judges and lawmakers start their careers by working for the Prosecutor's office after graduating Law School.  This gives the County Prosecutor an important political role in addition to their official duties in the justice system.  Many legal and political outcomes will pivot around the relationships that are first established in this office. 


The last time Cuyahoga County had a contested Prosecutor's race was in 2016, when O'Malley defeated incumbent prosecutor Timothy McGinty in what was widely seen as a referendum on McGinty's failure to charge Timothy Loehmann, the police officer who shot Tamir Rice in 2014.  In this year's primary, the Democratic Party Executive committee did not endorse either candidate. 


A recording of the candidate's recent debate at the City Club of Cleveland can be watched here.



The 34 Judges in the Court of Common Pleas General Division oversee all felony cases in Cuyahoga County, as well as all civil cases where the claim exceeds $15,000. Judges make the ultimate decisions about setting bail amounts, sentencing, and awarding damages.  Judges' legal opinions are supposed to be influenced by the details of each case, legal precedent, and the recommendations of prosecutors and bail commissioners.  Naturally, their backgrounds and personalities can make a huge difference as well.  Judges have wide discretion with how to handle each case, meaning which judge your case is assigned to can make an enormous difference in the penalties you might face.  There are often wide disparities between how two judges will treat a similar case, or even how a single judge might treat two different defendants accused of the same crime. 

In addition to the 34 judges in the general division, 6 judges serve in the Juvenile division, which oversees cases where the defendant is a minor.  Another 5 elected judges serve on the County Domestic Relations Court, which oversees all matters of divorce, legal separation, child support, and custody.  Finally, 2 judges serve on the probate court, which oversees disputes regarding wills, estates, guardianships, and adoptions.  Probate judges also issue marriage licenses.  In all divisions of the court, lower level cases may be overseen by magistrates who are appointed by the elected judges, and this practice is especially common in the Juvenile court.

Judges on the Court of Common Pleas serve for six year terms, but once seated, they often run unopposed until retirement in Cuyahoga County.  This means many local politicians often run for judge at the end of their careers.  Although they run on party tickets, Judges are supposed to maintain a stance of political neutrality, meaning that getting their policy stances on public record can be very difficult.  Judicial misconduct is a very serious matter and overseen by the State Supreme Court, but the investigations can often take years while a harmful judge remains on the bench.  The longest serving judge on the court is Judge Daniel Gaul, whose seat is up this year.  He received his second suspension at the end of 2023, but allegations of serious misconduct go back to at least 2017, when his courtroom conduct was the focus of an episode of the podcast Serial.  Gaul nevertheless won reelection in 2018. 


When a Judge is removed or passes away while in office, the Governor has the ability to appoint a replacement for the remainder of the year before holding a special election.  Organizations of Bar Associations such as Judge4Yourself have come together in more recent years to help voters compare judicial candidates.





A race to replace retiring Judge John D. Sutula, for a six-year term beginning on January 8th 2025, and ending on December 31st, 2030.


RACE 2: 
A special election to finish the final term of recently deceased Judge Michael J. Russo.  Whoever wins this election will serve until December 31st, 2026 and will then need to run again.



An election to replace Judge Daniel Gaul, who was suspended for judicial misconduct at the end of 2023 by the Ohio Supreme CourtHis docket is currently being overseen by retired Judge Janet Burnside through the end of the year.  The winner of this election will serve a six-year term beginning on January 5th, 2025 and ending on December 31st, 2030.


An election for the Court of Common Please, Juvenile Division.  The winner of this election will serve a six-year term beginning on January 2nd, 2025 and ending on December 31st, 2030.


 Cuyahoga County 

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