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Local Medina County News

Two seek to replace longtime judge

  • Russell-J-R-jpg
  • Werner-Gary-jpg

Two local attorneys have declared their candidacy for Medina Municipal Court judge. Judge Dale H. Chase recently announced that he will not seek re-election in November.

He will have served 30 years when his term ends Dec. 31.

Democrat J.R. Russell of Goldman and Rosen in Akron, and Republican Gary F. Werner of Berns, Ockner and Greenberger in Cleveland, submitted petitions to run on the May 2 primary ballot.

Candidates have a deadline of 4 p.m. Wednesday to file for the primary. The Medina County Board of Elections will meet 3 p.m. Thursday to certify candidates.

If no other candidates oppose file, Russell and Werner automatically will be nominated as candidates for the November election, Medina County Board of Elections Director Carol Lawler said Friday.

Party affiliation will not be listed on the Nov. 7 ballot as judgeships are nonpartisan races.

The winner will serve a six-year term.


J.R. Russell


About Russell

"After Judge Chase commented that the 'next person to serve in this office should have significant and extensive experience in municipal courts,' I felt confident that I had the experience, integrity, and compassion for this position," Russell, 40, said in a news release Friday.

In addition to his role at the law firm, Russell serves as part-time prosecutor for the village of Lodi. He said in the statement he has prosecuted and defended civil and criminal cases before a variety of municipal courts throughout Ohio.

"I have represented both sides of the different types of cases that will come before the Medina Municipal Court," he said. "I have represented those accused of crimes and I have been a prosecutor for the past four years. I have represented both landlords and tenants. I have represented national banks, credit unions, and individual people in municipal courts around the state."

Russell said he has argued cases before the Ohio Supreme Court and courts of appeals across the state.

"I have the right experience and temperament to make sure that our Court operates fairly, impartially, and efficiently," Russell said. "I look forward to meeting citizens and working for the people of Medina County."

Russell lives in Medina with his wife, attorney Monica Russell, and their two children.

Monica Russell practices real estate law at the Medina firm Critchfield, Critchfield & Johnston.

The Russells have been recognized in their field by the Ohio Super Lawyers and Rising Star list by Super Lawyers Magazine.

They attend St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Medina.


Gary F. Werner


About Werner

Werner, 54, has been a trial attorney for 23 years. He said he practices law in Ohio and California and serves as a magistrate in the Brunswick Mayor's Court.

During his four years presiding over the mayor's court, Werner said in a news release Friday he has arraigned and sentenced thousands of defendants on charges typical of those heard in the Municipal Court, including OVI, traffic and misdemeanor criminal offenses.

A Brunswick native, Werner served as mayor from 2010-13, vice mayor, councilman, and as a Board of Zoning Appeals member.

"My years as a public servant were driven by a commitment to accountability and frugality, when it comes to managing taxpayers' money," Werner said.

In the statement, he said he donated his mayor's salary back to the city - about $50,000. The mayor's position is part time.

He said he expected his public service experience would prove helpful in resolving the issue of expanding the Medina Municipal Court's facilities.

Werner is a UCLA and Loyola Law School graduate and a Brunswick High School Alumni Hall of Fame member.

He filed his petition with the Medina County Board of Elections on Jan. 18.

Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or

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