With the primary election quickly approaching, Lake County residents have the opportunity to fill the seat of long-serving Lake County Court of Common Pleas Judge, Richard L. Collins, Jr. Judge Collins will be retiring at the end of his current term and his vacancy has attracted some of Lake County’s respected attorneys to vie for the position.

In the Republican primary, Attorneys Jeff Black, Pat Condon, and Mike DeLeone have thrown their hats in the ring in the hopes of serving as Lake County’s next Common Pleas Court Judge.

For the Democratic primary, Attorneys Chuck Cichocki, Dennis N. LoConti, and Paul Miller are seeking nomination to run in the general election for the same judicial seat. Too often, judicial candidates are less well known than their other public office counterparts. And yet judges have just as much impact on county residents, if not more so, than other elected officials. And so, in an effort to assist Lake County in making this important decision, we should all take a look at the candidates and their respective backgrounds before casting our vote.

Lake County residents voting in the Republican primary will have to decide between Jeff Black, Esq., Pat Condon, Esq., and Mike DeLeone, Esq.

Attorney Jeff Black is a life-long resident of Willoughby who has assisted clients with personal injury, divorce, juvenile and family law matters, small business, criminal and traffic matters, and probate and estate planning for over 20 years. Aside from his legal practice, Attorney Black has served as a member of Willoughby Council at Large for 15 years and the Republican Central Committee for 8 years. He has also held non-elected positions including being the Chairman of the Lake County Public Defenders Commission. He has been married for over 30 years and has three children. Attorney Black, if elected would like to continue to work towards electronic filing with the Clerk of Courts office and would like to expand upon the county’s mediation process. He feels his prior judicial experience as having been appointed as an acting Judge and as serving as a magistrate makes his stand out from his election opponents. Attorney Black is “Highly Recommended” by the Lake County Car Association.

Attorney Pat Condon, a resident of Painesville, has been an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney with the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office for the last 14 years. For the four years prior to that, he was with the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office. Attorney Condon is in his 19th year of practicing as an attorney and has prosecuted cases ranging from murder, rape, burglary, and sexual crimes against minors. Attorney Condon, as a prosecutor, feels his job is to look at all sides of a case and make sure justice is being done. In his efforts to work for justice, Attorney Condon has appeared in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas hundreds of times and feels that this experience has given him an appreciation for what will be required of him as Judge. He is “Highly Recommended” by the Lake County Bar Association and has been endorsed by The Lake County Republican Party as well as Congressman Dave Joyce, to name a few. Attorney Condon has been married to his wife for 18 years and the couple has two children.

Attorney Mike DeLeone, a resident of Concord, has been an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney with the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office from 2002 to 2010. Attorney DeLeone was an assistant prosecutor handling civil matters, as well as felony cases, juvenile cases, appellate cases, and child support enforcement matters. Following his time with the prosecutor’s office, Attorney DeLeone started his own practice in 2010 and continues to represent clients in their legal matters. Attorney DeLeone has also held elected office, serving as a Painesville City Councilman from 2012 to 2017. He has also held non-elected positions including being a board member of Lake-Geauga United Head Start since 2007. Attorney DeLeone has also taught at Lakeland Community College for over 10 years and has a strong belief in the value of education. He is married and has 5 children. With his many years of working to improve our community, Attorney DeLeone feels he has the professional experience and dedication to serve as Judge of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas.

For Lake County Residents voting in the Democratic primary, the candidates include Chuck Cichocki, Esq., Dennis N. LoConti, Esq., and Paul E. Miller, Esq.

Attorney Chuck Cichocki is currently in his 11th year as an Assistant Prosecutor with the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office prosecuting major felony matters including robberies, burglaries, and homicides. Prior to his eleven years with the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, Attorney Cichocki was an Assistant Public Defender with the Lake County Public Defender’s Office for 7 years. Aside from his work with both the Public Defender’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office, Attorney Cichocki practiced law in the private sector for nearly 20 years, representing clients in personal injury, insurance defense, and construction law. While in private practice, Attorney Cichocki served as Acting Judge in the Garfield Heights Municipal Court for 7 years. With his nearly 39 years of practicing law, Attorney Cichocki believes there is no other candidate that has the depth and breadth of legal experience he has attained, making him the most well-rounded candidate to fill the judicial seat. Aside from his legal practice, Attorney Cichocki served six terms as Councilman for the City of Independence. He and his wife have four adult children. Attorney Cichocki received a “Highly Recommended” endorsement from the Lake County Bar Association.

Attorney Dennis N. LoConti, a resident of Mentor for the last 22 years, assists clients with legal matters in northeast Ohio through his own private law practice in Beachwood. Attorney LoConti has experience assisting clients with legal issues ranging from auto accidents, business issues, child support, criminal matters, divorce, juvenile, and family law matters, as well as personal injury, wrongful death, and probate cases. In addition to representing his clients in legal matters, Attorney LoConti has served as Acting Judge in the Mentor Municipal Court since 2016. He has also served as Democratic Precinct Committeeman of Precinct L in the City of Euclid and Ward Leader of Ward 4, also in the City of Euclid. Attorney LoConit is married and has three adult children. He is also active with the Lake County Bar Association and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Wickliffe, Ohio, Aerie No. 4086.

If elected, Attorney LoConti believes his focus as Judge should be to address the opiate addiction crisis and to strengthen drug and alcohol addiction programs in Lake County. Secondly, Attorney LoConti believes it is important to educate young adults on the laws that impact them. He sees an opportunity to accomplish this goal through the local high schools by expanding the elective law classes as well as creating and developing programs bringing local attorneys into schools to provide insight to young adults on how the law impacts them. Finally, Attorney LoConti sees value in the establishment of Drug and Mental Health Courts for Lake County, sighting success with similar court divisions in other communities. Having assisted clients for 35 years as an attorney, he believes that as judge, he would aim to ensure every citizen who comes to court should leave feeling that they have been afforded their right to be heard and present their arguments in a respectable manner.

Attorney Paul E. Miller has been a resident of Mentor for the last 17 years. He is an attorney with his own private practice representing clients throughout Lake County and has gained valuable Judicial experience serving as a part-time Magistrate and Acting Judge in the Mentor Municipal Court. Attorney Miller represents and works on behalf of clients in matters involving criminal cases, juvenile and family matters, as well as divorce and custody matters, to name a few. Prior to assisting the community through his work in private practice, Attorney Miller worked as an Assistant Public Defender with the Lake County Public Defender’s Office and still serves as Court-Appointed Counsel and Guardian Ad Litem in Lake County courts.

Aside from representing and assisting members of the Lake County community with a range of legal issues, Attorney Miller also serves as Vice President of the Lake Tran Board of Trustees, is the former chair of the Lake County Public Defenders Commission, and the former Chair of the Lake County Certified Grievance Committee. Attorney Miller is married and has one child. If elected, Attorney Miller would like to focus his attention as Judge on making sure individuals, as well as attorneys with disabilities, have the same access to the courthouse and records of the Court. If elected, he is also dedicated to the implementation of a Drug and Mental Health Court and recognizes the impact similar courts have had in their respective communities.

Finally, Attorney Miller recognizes a need to continue to implement new technologies into the Courtroom such as allowing individuals to appear remotely for certain types of hearings. With the implementation of technology in the courtroom such as e-filing, or allowing video/telephone appearance, not only will members of the community have more ease of access to the justice system but will likely also reduce associated legal costs. He feels a strong commitment to community service, Lake County values, and has received a “Highly Recommended” endorsement by the Lake County Bar Association.

One can easily see that the candidates for the Judicial seat are all respected, accomplished, and qualified members, of not only their professional community but the Lake County community as a whole. Whichever candidate the members of Lake County decide, it is clear we will all be well served. With this in mind, Lake County residents can go out and cast an informed vote for our next Judge of the Lake County Common Pleas Court.