Six candidates are seeking to be the next Belmont County Western Division Court judge.
County voters will see the following names on their ballots when they go to the polls Nov. 6 - Charles Bean, Eric Costine, Kevin Flanagan, Todd Kildow, William Thomas and Helen Yonak.
- Bean, of St. Clairsville, has a law degree from Ohio State University.
He is the village solicitor for Powhatan Point, and is on the board of directors for Belmont Savings Bank.
Bean has been called upon to serve as a special prosecutor for a number of cases, and has sat by special assignment as a Belmont County court judge.
He believes "experience, dedication and fairness to all persons" is what makes a good judge, along with the ability to listen to all persons involved in a case.
- Costine, of St. Clairsville, is a lifelong resident of Belmont County. He has practiced law in Belmont County for 27 years at the Costine Law Firm alongside his father, John, and brother, current Belmont County Juvenile/Probate Court Judge J. Mark Costine.
Costine serves as lead public defender in Belmont County. He manages the County Public Defender's Office, as well as the Costine Law Offices. He is a graduate of Ohio Northern University College of Law, and Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio.
"A good judge must be fair," he said. "But above this, a good judge must be highly ethical, of an even temper, with courage and integrity. A good judge must be able to listen to a fault and make decisions with conviction."
As judge he said he would interpret the law "only after thorough study."
"And I would interpret and decide it based first on the constitution and the laws of our land and decisions of other judges," Costine continued. "But I would decide cases with firm common sense, and would write or pronounce them in a way that all will understand how and why I made that decision."
- Flanagan is an attorney with Gold, Khourey and Turak. He is a Bellaire native who now lives in Flushing.
He began his law career in 1995 as an assistant prosecutor in the Belmont County Prosecutor's Office. During his time there, he was voted "assistant prosecuting attorney of the year" by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
After leaving to enter private practice, then Eastern Division Court Judge William Davis asked him to serve as his acting judge.
"It has been a wonderful experience," he said. "Since then, I've moved on to serve as acting judge in the Northern Division Court, and the Western Division Court."
- Kildow, of Bethesda, said a good judge must display "integrity, honesty, effort and a work ethic."
"Hard work and effort beats talent when talent does not work hard," he said. "This philosophy applies to the legal community the same as it does the athletic fields. The ability to work hard and do what is right even if it is not the popular choice is most important.
"Too often we hear complaints about how long it takes to get a decision. Many times that is the result of trying to push parties to settle their case due to not wanting to make a decision. If you put yourself in a position of authority you must be willing to exercise that authority without concern for yourself."
- Thomas, of Martins Ferry, said the ideal judge displays "fairness and impartiality."
His philosophy in interpreting the law is "to decide each case on the law and the facts presented."
Thomas describes himself as being "thoughtful and unbiased."
- Yonak, of Jacobsburg, said "fairness and the ability to be impartial" are necessary characteristics in a judge.
"In a small community such as Belmont County everyone in the legal profession knows each other," she commented." "This is helpful in working together but sometimes clients will think the attorneys are too friendly with each other.
"As judge the role is to stand back from the parties and listen to all sides before making any decisions, and then do so fairly."
She said she would rely on common sense to determine the law.
"The statutes clearly define the elements of each offense and claims before the courts," Yonak continued. "The judge needs to research the issues and apply the law using common sense to achieve a just decision for all parties.