Wednesday, May 2, 2018






The Stark County Political Report (SCPR/The Report) received a caller today:  "Martin, are you going to do a blog on the Haupt/Foltz Stark County Court of Common Pleas judgeship race?"

Initially, this blogger said:  "Perhaps"—but that it would be one of disgust after having seen the respective candidates campaign finance reports.

And President Donald J. Trump talks about "the swamp" (in terms of monied influences on officialdom decision making) being in Washington, D.C.?"

Anybody who is anybody in the Stark County legal community and practices before the Common Pleas Court of Stark County, seemingly, has made a contribution to either Democratic candidate Natalie Haupt (Facebook LINK)  and/or Jeremy Foltz (Facebook LINK).

In today's "Follow The Money" blog, the SCPR will let the facts speak for themselves and let readers draw their own conclusions on what may or may not be going on (i.e. the attorney contribution factor) in the Foltz/Haupt election.

There are those who think that the Haupt/Foltz race is about their relative merits based on their respective official record/education et cetera.

One observer on the qualities of Haupt/Foltz in terms of their career track merits characterized/contrasted Haupt as being a Stark County political "blueblood" (with Congress Lake connections) and Foltz being a more down-to-earth type, and their likely ability to understand and give a fair hearing to mostly day-in, day-out Stark Countians who appear before them.

Still another with an opinion on the Foltz/Haupt match up is absolutely convinced that Haupt and her years as a Judge John Haas magistrate adjudicating sometimes complex civil cases puts her in a position of being better prepared than Foltz (who primarily hears traffic cases and the like in Canton Municipal Court) to being a fully function judge from the get-go.

On their career-track merits (not considering how campaign contributions might weigh-in on their decision-making), the SCPR thinks these two are pretty much a wash.

For The Report, the critical assessment in Democrats deciding whom to vote for is which candidate can truly put out of his/her mind who contributed how much to their respective campaigns in deciding/managing cases (a reference to jury trials) involving contributors to their campaigns.

Just take a look at the first page of the respective pre-primary campaign finance reports of Foltz and Haupt.

It boggles the mind how one can decide the "critical question" the SCPR poses two paragraphs up.

What a terrible, terrible, terrible state of affairs insofar as one feeling assured that either can administer fair and impartial justice.

Candidate Foltz:

Candidate Haupt:


Foltz $124,551.15 to Haupt's $32,646.59 through April 16, 2018.

The Monday caller to the SCPR was bullish on Natalie Haupt but Golly Gee! with Foltz having 4 to 1 lead in campaign revenues, isn't the Haupt supporter in for one big disappointment?

Undoubtedly and, of course, sarcastically on the SCPR's part, all the members of the legal community who contribute are doing so in "the interest of good government, no?"

Not that the candidates are not qualified but that they (including Republican James Matthews [see commentary below]  have accepted thousands of dollars from lawyers many of whom, if not most of whom, will be appearing in front of whomever ultimately gets elected in November's general election.

It might be that the "organized" bar and the Ohio Supreme Court feel powerless to do anything about this "unseemly" financing of judicial campaigns because of Constitutional law factors (e.g. 1976 case  U.S. Supreme Court Buckley v. Valeo) and therefore explains the lack of intervention.

However, the candidates themselves could themselves refuse to accept contributions from those lawyers/law firms who have a more or less regular practice before the court for the office that Foltz and Haupt seek.

That they did not do so, the SCPR thinks, makes them vulnerable to thinking on the part of the Stark County general public that a factor in the outcome of some cases could be owing to there being in the back of mind of the judge having a role in the case, of whom contributed how much to the judge's campaign.

Even the skeptical SCPR doubts that many American judges consciously consider campaign finance factors in rendering critical-to-case-outcome decisions in cases before them.  Rather it is a "fooling-themselves-that-they-are-unaffected" by the knowledge of campaign finance that lurks in the back-of-the-mind is where the problem lies.

So if a judge knows that a lawyer or a lawyer’s client has made a campaign contribution, he may be more inclined to look favorably on that case, even if he is consciously trying not to (see Thomas M. Susman, “Reciprocity, Denial, and the Appearance of Impropriety: Why Self-Recusal Cannot Remedy the Influence of Campaign Contributions on Judges’ Decisions,” Journal of Law and Politics (August 2011)). And because campaign contributions are a matter of public record, it’s hard to argue that judges can be shielded from knowing who their campaign contributors are. (an excerpt, a LINK to the entire article which should be read in its entirety by SCPR blog readers who care about the integrity of our judicial system) 
The only solution is for candidates for judge to refuse any campaign contributions from any lawyers who might appear before them.  And, for sure! regarding those (including their clients) who regularly, more or less, and therefore predictably will appear before them.

Stark County does have a precedent for a candidate who might be affected by campaign contributions on the part of lawyers not accepting $1 of contributions from any lawyer.

Republican prosecutor candidate (2016) Jeff Jakmides did exactly that in his race against for Stark County Democratic Party chairman and incumbent prosecutor John Ferrero.

Of course, very few people who aspire to run for political office have the financial resources of a Jeff Jakmides.

Nonetheless, there are some offices the candidates for which should not accept certain donations.

Ferrero's campaign finance reports, by way of stark contrast, in the 2016 were "swamped" with attorney contributors.


Jakmides' campaign fell short in 2016 but there is no doubt in SCPR's thinking that "from-the-leader's-example" standpoint, Stark's system of justice would have advanced in ethical quality in light years had Jakmides been elected.

Though Jakmides lost the race, the "real" loser was the Stark County general public.

Another quote from the Dunnewood article:
Whether or not judges are influenced by campaign contributions, there is a significant public perception that they are. According to a 2011 survey conducted by Justice at Stake, a non-partisan organization whose mission is to ensure an impartial court system, 83 percent of the public believe that judicial campaign contributions influence judges’ decisions to some degree (National Registered Voters Frequency Questionnaire, October 2011). An earlier survey showed 26 percent of state court judges believe campaign contributions affect their decisions (Justice at Stake Campaign, National Surveys of American Voters and State Judges, October 2001–January 2002). (emphasis added)
And as such general public thinking grows, then you have a burgeoning erosion in confidence in the integrity of our institutions of government and ordinary citizens believing that the judiciary aspect of those institutions are "fair and impartial."

To be completely fair about this issue (the influence through political contributions issue), most Americans say all they want in life is a fair opportunity.


This blogger's experience in life suggests otherwise.

Isn't "the fair opportunity thing" a mythology that is akin to "political correctness?"

Isn't the reality that most of us want some sort of an advantage?

Why should we expect political candidates to be any different than the hoi pollio?

The SCPR's answer is that those who aspire to political/government leadership should be an exemplary role model and not fall in what most everybody else does.

Had Haupt and Foltz both eschewed taking contributions from lawyers practicing in our Stark County Court of Common Pleas, the only difference likely would be rather than talking $124,000 and $32,000 in campaign funding, there would likely be a proportional scaling down of what the candidates could raise from others.

The large payoff would be a reversal to 0% the 83% public perception cited above in the Dunnewood article and the beginning of restoration of public confidence in the fairness and impartiality in at least one Stark County court.

But apparently for the likes of Foltz and Haupt to step forward and implement the Jakmides model is pure fantasy.

As a consequence, Stark's "organized" Democrats are in the midst of a "political" bloodletting as they will be leading warring factions in persuading Stark County registered  Democrats to decide on May 8th whether Natalie Haupt or Jeremy Foltz will be the party's nominee to run in a "no party label allowed" general election coming up in November.

But of course these same political party leaders will find ways and means to "unofficially" identify the Republican/Democratic candidate so as to encourage "voting the party line."

It looks like competing legal community interests are behind the bitter, bitter, bitter judicial battle underway and it makes no difference whatsoever which of the Democratic candidates win.

Whomever wins, of course, has to defeat Republican James Matthews in November.  However, the SCPR  does not get the impression that organizational Democrats consider Matthews to be much of a threat in the general election. 

A source tells the SCPR that Haupt thought she was getting a free ride and all of a sudden up pops Foltz.


Was there a block of Stark County lawyers who felt they would be disadvantaged should Haupt become judge?

As always The Stark County Political Report provides a complete and accurate picture of the data-evidence that The Report has gathered to support the opinions of this blogger.

At the end of this blog is a complete copy of the Foltz/Haupt campaign finance reports that have been  filed with the Stark County Board of Elections.

The Report recognizes that many readers do not have the time/inclination to wade through voluminous reports and therefore what follows in a sampling of higher dollar supporters of each candidate.

Here is an Ohio Supreme Court (Office of Professional Conduct) chart for readers to use in determining whether or not a candidate contributions comply with OSC rules:

First, Foltz:

For Haupt:

An interesting aside on the Haupt contributions is that the Krugliak and Plakas law firms are perceived by many in Stark County as being "Democratic" law firms.

On the Foltz side, its the Schulman and Zimmerman law firms.  Allen Schulman has a storied history of making very large contributions to Democratic candidates from the top of the American political structure down to Canton city council.

And come November, no doubt lawyers/law first perceived as being Republican insider will come to the campaign finance forefront in support of James Matthews.

A battle of Stark County's personal injury legal titans finds it way into a Stark County Court of Common Pleas race and Stark County system of justice?


Lee Plakas
  • (who, by the way, the SCPR thinks is an outstandingly skilled attorney along with fellow firm attorney and Haupt contributor Edmond Mack, as are, of course, Foltz contributors Allen Schulman and Brian Zimmerman) 
on Monday evening was in Massillon advising the city on its acceptance/rejection of the settlement in the claim/counterclaim over the closing of Affinity Medical Center, is thought by some to have been hired at the initiative of Democrat mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry in view of the perception that political party affinity plays a role in whom elected officials (Democratic and Republican) select to represent the taxpaying public who, of course, should be benefited by negotiation with a variety of high quality law firms/lawyers (without regard to political lean) on the rate of compensation.

Did a competitive bidding taxpayer factor ever enter Catazaro-Perry's mind?

Another interesting factor in the Haupt campaign finance report is the fact that Natalie Haupt's father-in-law (Fred Haupt, bio LINK) and husband (Jason, bio LINK) are key persons in the Kruliak Wilkins law firm.

The Report has talked with a person that recently had occasion to physically go to the KWGD law firm.  This source says that "Haupt for Judge" political paraphernalia dominated the scene.

Question:  If ultimately elected, does Haupt have to recuse herself from KWGD involved cases?

If she doesn't and especially for firms/lawyers who support Foltz, will she be plagued with Affidavits of Disqualification?

Finally, here are the complete campaign finance reports of both campaigns. 

Although the reports are relatively long (Haupt, 47 pages/Foltz 166 pages), to "really" get the handle on whom among the Stark County legal community are contributing to the respective candidates (some contribute to both), the reports are a highly worthwhile read.

The Foltz Report:

The Haupt Report:

No comments: