Mahoning Matters reached out to candidates running for local office with a standard list of questions aimed at helping voters make an informed decision in the 2020 election. Each campaign's response will be published in the Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana County Voter Guide as it is received and all responses are subject to minimal editing for clarity and/or length. Mahoning Matters does not endorse any candidate.
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Candidate Name: J.P. Morgan
Office Sought: Mahoning County Court Judge
District: Court #3 - Sebring
Party Affiliation: Republican
City of Residence: Canfield
J.P. Morgan was appointed to this court by Governor DeWine in March of 2019. Prior to his time on the bench, Judge Morgan practiced law in the Mahoning Valley for over 17 years. Morgan, a graduate of Mineral Ridge High School, received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science/Criminal Justice from The University of Akron and obtained his Law Degree from Ohio Northern University College of Law in 2001. Judge Morgan lives in Canfield with his wife of twenty-two years and their six children. Judge Morgan brings over 18 years legal experience to the bench having served as both a public defender and acting prosecutor. He has also represented thousands of clients in criminal, domestic, juvenile, probate and civil court matters. Judge Morgan has been an advocate for children serving as a guardian ad litem for hundreds of children in domestic and juvenile court cases. He is a trusted member of the bar association having previously served for ten years (2 as chairman) on the Trumbull County ethics committee. He currently serves on the board of education for Heartland Christian School. In 2009 he was awarded the Northeast Ohio Attorney Volunteer of the Year for his service of underprivileged clients. In his spare time, Judge Morgan enjoys coaching youth baseball and basketball teams and spending time with his wife and children. Judge Morgan is a member of Tabernacle Evangelical Church in Austintown where he is a regular Sunday school teacher.
1. What qualities do you possess that qualify you for the job you are seeking?
I am the only candidate in this race with judicial experience, having served on this bench for over 18 months. Prior to becoming a Judge, I was a full time practicing attorney in the Mahoning Valley for over18 years, I bring a wide-ranging skillset and vast courtroom experience to the bench. My multi-county legal practice has allowed me to see how our area courts can run efficiently and justly. Serving as both a public defender (10 years) and acting prosecutor, I understand our criminal justice system from every angle. My civil litigation experience has given me the experience and knowledge of the law that will be needed to hear and decide those civil cases assigned to the County Court. I have been a trusted member of the bar association having served for 10 years (2 as chairman) on the Trumbull County Ethics Committee, a committee that investigates and holds accountable lawyers who violate ethical rules. I have volunteered hundreds of hours assisting low income and underprivileged clients in the Mahoning Valley who otherwise would not have had access to our legal system. As a Guardian Ad Litem for hundreds of children, I served as a voice for children in abuse, neglect and dependency cases. I understand the positive impact our Courts can have on children and families.
2. If you are elected, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?
It is my hope to continue to develop many of the programs I have already started since being on the bench. These would be our driver's license recovery program and drug/alcohol/mental health intervention program. I would like to continue to explore ways to become more technologically efficient and begin holding civil pretrial remotely.
3. What do you feel will be the top issue facing this office over the next term? How would you focus your efforts to tackle it?
The drug epidemic has been, and continues to be, one of the biggest issues our community faces. It is very clear to me from my time as a public defender, private attorney and from my time on the bench, that drug addiction is a major contributing factor in the crimes that are committed in our community. County Courts have a unique opportunity to intervene in the life of a person who is at a crossroads in their life. It has been my position to offer defendants drug treatment in lieu of other forms of punishment (incarceration/fines and probation). My probation department and I have met with every major drug/alcohol and mental health provider in the Mahoning Valley. We've looked closely at treatment programs to see what works and what does not and it was exciting to see the new programs that are working. We now offer faith-based treatment options to those who want to go that route. But what I am most proud of is my personal follow up with defendants. I personally invest in those who want to better themselves. And so when you get sent to a treatment from my court, that is not the last you see of me. I have expanded my court times to allow for time to personally recall defendants back in before me so we can talk about how their treatment is going. Many of the folks I see either don’t have family or friends and have burned a lot of bridges. So they need someone there to encourage them when they are doing well, prod them along when they are slipping or punish them when they need it. We have seen much success with this program. I have had families come up to me and thank me for taking the time to personally invest in their family member. And that is what I love to hear….that we are making a difference.
4. What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents would have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status? In your view, where does the system fall short?
Access to justice is a concern for me and I am working towards solutions to these problems for our community. I currently serve on the Mahoning County Access to Justice committee where we have been working hard to identify access to justice barriers and working hard to come up with solutions to resolve them. I have personally participated in local legal aid clinics assisting people get valid licenses and apply for sealing of their records when permitted by law.
5. What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what one change would you make right now?
Judges should remain apolitical.
6. Are you satisfied with Ohio's response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? Can more be done at the local level? The federal level?
Our county courts have implemented most, if not all, of the recommended COVID-19 protocols that were recommended by the Ohio Supreme Court. We will continue to work to provide a safe environment for those doing business in our courthouse.
7. The state is expected to make cuts in its upcoming budget in light of the reduction in tax revenue because of the pandemic. How should the state and local government set budget priorities? How deeply should cuts be made? What should your office be doing, or is doing, to prepare?
Our court has been operating with a very small budget and with minimal staff. Currently, we are sharing court personnel with other county courts and my court has followed Governor DeWine's hiring freeze he implemented in the spring 2020.
8. What do you think is the most pressing matter that pertains to the next generation of Ohioans who may be voting for the first time?
Voters need to become and remain informed. We need an educated electorate.
9. Are you frustrated by the political sniping, exaggeration and even lies between the parties and their supporters that has diminished respect and reasoned compromise? If so, what will you personally do to make the situation better?
It would not be appropriate for me in my judicial role to comment on the current political environment.
10. Who is your hero, and why?
Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life. He loved and served those around him. He lived a life of humility. He cared for the poor, the rejected and the forgotten. He sacrificed himself for others.