Michael j. duff, candidate for lorain county domestic relations judge, may 2018 primary election electricity in water pipes

Education (Please list only schools you’ve graduated from and list degrees if applicable): Brookside High School, High School Diploma; Ashland University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Economics Major): Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Juris Doctor

Should you be elected, what are three specific areas you’d like to change, address, improve or further research, and how specifically would you go about it?: The biggest challenge in our legal system today is obviously the opioid epidemic that has so ravaged our families in Northeast Ohio. This crisis has touched me personally as it took the life of my nephew. The Domestic Relations Court unfortunately sees many of the results of this epidemic, from families breaking down to children running afoul of the law. It is my belief that we need to take a holistic and empathic approach to the issue and this includes improving drug intervention programs for known juvenile addicts and working with parents who have lost custody of their children due to addiction issues. My aim is to engage in a preventive intervention program with juvenile addicts before they become a statistic. I believe that we can make the Domestic Relations Court a place of support for those families touched by the epidemic.

The second issue that I would focus upon would be trying to keep juvenile offenders in school as much as possible. In my over thirty (30) years of legal experience with juvenile offenders, I have too often seen them fall immediately into the perils of the system and they lose any positive connection with their peer group almost instantly. Instead of seeing other young people working towards positive goals, they are only exposed to others travelling along the wrong path. I fully understand that this circumstance can be an unavoidable part of the juvenile justice system and the experience is not uniformly negative for every juvenile, but it is my belief, based upon my 37 years as a lawyer, that the goal should be to keep juvenile offenders in school whenever reasonable and practicable. In so doing, we would not unduly isolate juvenile offenders and this will hopefully help them feel a part of a productive society. We must be cognizant that juveniles are still developing physically, psychologically, and socially, and it is incumbent upon the juvenile to recognize this fact and utilize it in the rehabilitation process.

Finally, I believe that we as a society are at an important tipping point in terms of how we recognize and deal with diversity, minority concerns, and gender issues. Any part of the justice system must be aware of this fact and endeavor to deal with the issues with empathy and an open mind. If elected to office, I would focus on trying to deal with historically disadvantaged populations from a place of humility and compassion and not from a position of privilege. To that end, I would study how these populations are systemically treated in the Lorain County Domestic Relations Court and try to ascertain how divergence in outcomes is affected by differences in demographics. Most importantly, I would strive to treat all persons as individuals by checking my preconceptions at the door as justice should be blind and not beholden to social conventions that have rightly been rejected by our society.

Whether for past accomplishments or future goals, why should voters elect you?: If I am elected Domestic Relations Judge, my goals would be twofold: to do my part, however insignificant, in combating the opioid epidemic; and to be a fair and independent arbiter in both domestic relations and juvenile cases. I realize that no one person, no matter if they are a judge or just a man on the street, can solve the opioid problem by themselves, rather we each must do what we can by addressing those issues that we can actually influence. To that end, I will strive to make the Domestic Relations Court into a stepping stone on the path to healing for young addicts and their families. Do not get me wrong: I am not promising to reinvent the wheels of justice, but I will do everything in my power to do my part in defeating this horrible epidemic. I cannot, in good conscience, do any less. Furthermore, I want to be known as a honest and fair judge, and not someone who was controlled by political considerations. Over my entire career, I have seen far too much mixing of politics and the legal system. I am not naive and I am well aware that the judges are elected officials, but the ethical compromises which are seemingly the outgrowth of the election process have never set well with me. For that reason, I have chosen to wholly self-fund my campaign. As a judge, I would be required to be a fair and impartial arbiter, but if I take campaign contributions from lawyers, I will eventually have to decide cases involving lawyers who contributed, or did not contribute, to my campaign. From my point of view, such a scenario reeks of impropriety. The only consideration relevant to any case should be the interests of justice, not political expediency. If I could accomplish these goals, I would consider my tenure on the bench to be a success.