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Tess Neff

For Judge of the Lakewood Municipal Court
Full Term Beginning 1/1/2022

*Top Vote-Getter in General Election

Candidate Details

  • Residence
  • Email
  • Website
  • Social Media
  • Age
  • Occupation
    Court Administrator/Attorney
  • Education

    J.D. from Cleveland Marshall College of Law

  • Work Experience

    Judicial Magistrate and Acting Judge in Lakewood Court 10 years, Judicial Magistrate in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court 8 years, Attorney 29 years, Police Officer 3 years.

  • Family
    Married 35 years with three (3) children
  • Affiliations

    Lakewood Chapter League of Women Voters, Beck Center for Performing Arts Community Engagement Committee, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Westshore Bar Association, Ohio Association of Court Administration, President, Juvenile Court Citizens Advisory Board, Community Clergy Leaders Coalition

  • Endorsements

    Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25; Laborers' Local 310; Electricians Local 38; Pipefitters Local 120; Cuyahoga County Young Democrats; Cuyahoga County Councilman Dale Miller, District2

  • Bar Association Ratings

    Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association-Excellent; Cuyahoga County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association-Excellent; Asian American Bar Association-Excellent; Norman S. Minor Bar Association- Good; Ohio Women's Bar Association-Good.

Question 1

List your judicial experience (courts and years)

Lakewood Municipal Court Judicial Magistrate and Acting Judge (1996-2006). My responsibilities included presiding over hearings, motions, pretrials, trials and sentencings/dispositions on every type of criminal, civil, housing and traffic case within the court's jurisdiction. I was in the court every day on a full time basis. I was entrusted by the judge to make decisions that were fair, to conduct myself with integrity, and to competently apply the law. It was my responsibility to manage my court docket for efficiency and timeliness. I have presided over thousands of civil and criminal cases involving Lakewood citizens. Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judicial Magistrate (2007-2015). This opportunity allowed me to work with underprivileged children, families, mental health, addiction and trauma. I presided over and decided cases involving juveniles and young adults with felony and misdemeanor cases from arraignment through disposition. I heard and decided evidentiary motions, civil protection orders and had the responsibility to efficiently manage my court docket. In addition, I presided over the Reentry Court and worked with young adults recently released from the juvenile prison system to transition them back into the community.

Question 2

What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge?

Prior to becoming an attorney I worked as a police officer for three years. As a private attorney I represented and advocated for clients in criminal, civil and domestic relations matters in various municipal and state courts. I worked for two judges in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas General Division, as a staff attorney doing legal research and drafting legal opinions. In 2015, I was unanimously selected by the six Juvenile Court judges to manage the daily court operations, 550 staff and a $50 million budget. This is significant experience that is very important in a single judge court like Lakewood. The judge wears many hats. The responsibilities include overseeing court operations, important reporting requirements to the Ohio Supreme Court, a large staff, customer service, training, the clerk's office, and the probation department. I have the background to update and progress the court to improve access to the court and make it user friendly. Currently, I am the Lakewood City Council Ward 1 representative which has provided me with an intimate understanding of my community's needs. My unique qualifications and experience, including 18 years doing the job of a judge have prepared me well to be the next Lakewood judge. I will bring a wide breadth of knowledge and experience the other candidates lack. My distinct perspective includes law enforcement, attorney advocate, judicial officer, civic leader, and leader of a large court. All combined, I have the qualifications and temperament required for the job.

Question 3

Why are you running for this particular court seat?

It is an opportunity to serve my community at a greater level. Lakewood has been my family's home for 33 years. I am deeply rooted, and involved myself in community, civic and charitable organizations. I have already heeded the call to civic service as a councilperson. I care about people, I find gratification in helping others, and I want to continue my public service career of 28 years with the Lakewood Court. Going back to my days as a judicial magistrate and acting judge, I always imagined the ways I could positively affect my community as judge of the Lakewood Court, and I relish this opportunity. If elected, I will have a positive impact on the court and community. My ideas to enhance the court experience and increase access will promote fairness, equal treatment and create a user friendly and efficient process for attorneys, parties and citizens. Some of the many changes and improvements I will work to implement, include a Help Kiosk for litigants, parties and citizens to seek guidance and obtain information about the court process. This will alleviate some angst with coming to court and improve court access. Evening court hours will encourage individuals to be responsible and not have to choose between appearing for their case or missing work and risk losing pay. Create a diversion matrix to ensure equal opportunities to participate in diversion programming. Implement e-filing for efficiency, and collect data on case outcomes to guard against implicit bias.