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Magistrate Mahoning County Common Pleas Court
Juris Doctorate from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law - 1997
Bachelor of Arts from Ohio University - 1993
Boardman High School - 1989
- Work Experience
Attorney at Melone Law Offices LLC 1997-2016
Magistrate at Mahoning County Common Pleas Court 2017-Present
Married with 2 children
Member of Mahoning County Bar Association
Member of Ohio Association of Magistrates
Holy Family Church
Endorsed by the Youngstown Vindicator - April 24, 2023
Challenger for Struthers bench deserves nod from DemsAnimosity between city officials and sitting Municipal Court Judge Dominic Leone III in Struthers is just one concern reaching the boiling point this election season. But the problems have been percolating for quite some time. Much of it began shortly after Leone, of Struthers, took office in 2018 and quickly took aim at the court’s space and
poor conditions. At one point early in his six-year term, Leone was accused by the former Struthers mayor of tossing filing cabinets and computers out into the hallway, demanding use of a maintenance room for his probation department.
A few years later, he again demanded improvements and upgrades because, he said, his court space was inadequate. During a candidate interview last week with The Vindicator editorial board, Leone again said his staff needs more space and he still believes the best location is to take over some maintenance storage space. He added, however, he would consider other options, mentioning things like an office trailer on the property or renting a satellite office.
Struthers Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller last week didn’t dispute that there are physical plant needs that should be addressed. She points out, though, that city hall is an old building, and upgrades or relocation is not a simple or quick process.
Instead of working together to find solutions, the two elected officials seem more intent on throwing jabs at one another. Cercone Miller openly acknowledges that she’s backing the judge’s opponent in the May 2 primary. “He’s grown his staff, but not his caseload,” Cercone Miller said. In fact, Leone doesn’t dispute that the number of cases being handled in Struthers Municipal Court has declined, while his court staff has increased. He attributes some of the caseload decline to reduced number of Struthers police citations and zoning cases.
We agree there is always a need for safe, comfortable working conditions, but we aren’t convinced that, as a part-time judge, Leone needs to continue to grow his staff, and continue to outgrow his space. According to Leone, the court has eight full-time employees and at least one part-timer. Rather, we’d urge him to work closely with city hall to find a solution together.
A March 23 letter to Leone from Cercone Miller indicates that 2022 revenue to the court was $168,859, the lowest in the last five years, while court expenses sat at $384,489, for a negative balance of $215,630.
Meanwhile, Leone’s primary election opponent, James Melone of Poland, is taking a kinder, gentler approach. On a campaign questionnaire, the challenger, Melone, said if elected, his first priority would be to handle each case in a “professional manner” and with “proper decorum” expected of everyone appearing before the court. Additionally, he said he would work hard to build positive relationships with the mayor’s office and city council.
“I think my ability to work with council and the mayor’s office is to benefit the municipal court district. I don’t think that is happening right now,” Melone said.
Melone has served for the last six years as civil magistrate in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Melone pointed out that Struthers Municipal Court is a “part-time court,” and said, “I don’t understand why there’s a need for a civil magistate.”
Likewise, we questioned that need. When asked, Leone said simply that it’s a natural extension of the court and a good way to do business because he “can’t do it all.”
After speaking to both candidates and researching the court, we believe strongly that the challenger, Melone, was better prepared to address our questions, holds excellent qualifications as a longtime magistrate, and, frankly, seems to have a better temperament for the job.
We endorse Jim Melone for the Democratic nomination for Struthers Municipal Court judge.
The successful Democratic candidate will face Republican challenger Jennifer Ciccone in the fall. Independent candidates also may file by May 1 to run in November for the Struthers bench.
Struthers Municipal Court serves Struthers, Poland township and village, New Middletown, Lowellville and Springfield.
- Bar Association Ratings
Rated as "Recommended to Serve" by Mahoning County Bar Association 2023
List your judicial experience (courts and years)
Magistrate for Mahoning County Common Pleas Court from 2017-Present
Common Pleas Court is the highest trial court in the State. While serving in this position for almost seven years, I have presided over jury trials and thousands of hearings, civil and criminal.
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge?
In almost 26 years as a licensed attorney, I spent 19 years in private practice. During that time, I represented clients in several areas of the law, such as criminal, bankruptcy, civil, domestic relations, business, appellate, juvenile, etc. My vast experience in several areas of the law and representing approximately 2000 clients contributes to my qualifications to be your next Struthers Municipal Court Judge.
Why are you running for this particular court seat?
I believe that my experience makes me uniquely qualified to serve the residents of the Struthers Court District. I am prepared to run a fair and efficient court in a respectful and professional manner.