Oct. 5—Two legal professionals with decades of experience are vying to become the next Montgomery County Juvenile Court judge.
Steve Abshire, a local attorney, and Julie Bruns, a magistrate with the juvenile court, both said they believe their experience in juvenile law and commitment to protecting the residents of Montgomery County make them the best choice for the job.
The winner of November's election will replace Judge Anthony Capizzi, who is retiring after serving in the capacity for the last 18 years.
Montgomery County children's involvement with the criminal justice and local mental health systems have been in the public's eye for some time. Almost 1,000 arrest charges against juveniles have been reported by Dayton Police this year, and Dayton Children's Hospital said recently that mental health issues are the top reason a child is admitted to the hospital.
Both candidates said the issues are serious and they would work to address them if elected judge.
The race is countywide. Judges in Ohio serve six-year terms and make an annual salary of $155,000, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Abshire was born and raised in North Dayton, is a combat veteran and lives in Centerville with his wife and kids. He's served in the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases, was appointed by the court to represent children's best interests in custody and criminal cases, and now is an attorney at a private practice.
"I am passionate about helping kids, helping families and that's the sole reason I am running for judge," Abshire said.
Juvenile court impacts everyone in the community, he said, and children have different reasons why they come into contact with the law. He said he has worked with kids at their homes and at their schools, which gives him good insight into the struggles youth face in the community.
But he also said there is a crisis going on with crimes being committed by juveniles with weapons and that he has spoken with local police unions and believes that children do need to be held accountable for their actions, especially when they are accused of violent crimes. Abshire said not holding youth accountable is a disservice to them and the residents of Montgomery County.
"There's got to be a balance," he said.
Capizzi and the juvenile court have done a good job expanding the mental health services the court offers, Abshire said, but he said more focus needs to be on connecting services to area children before they end up in front of a judge.
"My experience prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases as an assistant prosecuting attorney, combined with 12 years in private practice focused exclusively on family law matters, makes me well qualified to serve as Montgomery County's juvenile court judge," he said.
Bruns worked for the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office for years prosecuting juvenile offenders as well as adults. She now works for the juvenile court as a magistrate overseeing and deciding cases involving child custody, parenting time and support. She lives in Miamisburg with her husband and kids.
She said she decided to run for the bench because she has devoted her career to juvenile law and feels she is prepared to serve the community and make a difference.
"My accountability is really to the constituents I support, so I think I need to be very focused on the safety of the community but I also have to remember that we need to be rehabilitating our juvenile offenders," Bruns said, adding that most of the juveniles that come before the court are nonviolent and the vast majority will be released at some point.
"The goals here really are toward making them people we would hope to have back out into our community," she said.
She said the court currently offers a lot of programming to rehabilitate and help area children and she will work to maintain the programs and grow them. She said involving the community is important, and that she would work to strengthen families here because strong families mean safe communities.
Bruns created a diversion program as an assistant prosecutor to help juvenile offenders learn about the dangers of their behavior.
"My passion has always been to help others, whether it be a victim of crime or a juvenile who has chosen the wrong path," Bruns said. "While I do believe there should be consequences for wrongs that are committed, I also believe that people should be given an opportunity, in the proper situations, to redeem themselves and become law-abiding, contributing members of society."