Voter Guide

The counties included in the voters guide are: Montgomery, Warren, Miami, Greene, Clark, Champaign, Preble, and Butler.

NOTE: Not all communities have issues or candidates on the ballot.

Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge

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    Jeff Rezabek

  • Candidate picture

    Helen Wallace

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Biographical Information

What are the two biggest issues facing the court?

Is the goal of juvenile justice rehabilitation or correction and why?

What tools could juvenile judges use that they don’t currently have to better reach at-risk youth?

Should juvenile offenders, especially violent ones with convictions, get to have their names out of public records because they are juveniles?

Are juvenile sanctions strong enough given that former juvenile offenders are recruiting teens to commit crimes because they know how the system will respond and what they should tell probation officers and court officials?

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

Experience Judge Rezabek was appointed to serve as Montgomery County, Ohio Juvenile Court Judge in July of 2018. Judge Rezabek served as State Representative for the 43rd District in the Ohio House of Representative from 2015 until his appointment by Governor Kasich to be your Juvenile Court Judge. Previously, Judge Rezabek was a substitute magistrate for Dayton Municipal Court and had a successful private practice for over twenty years, which focused on juvenile, custody and family law, as well as criminal defense work. Additionally, noting his over 20 plus years as a CASA/Guardian Ad Litem for Montgomery County Juvenile Court representing the best interests of the children and families of our community. Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge – Juvenile Division July 2018 – Present State Representative(43rd District) Ohio House of Representatives, Columbus, OH 2017-2019 – 132nd General Assembly o Committees – Criminal Justice(Vice-Chair), Civil Justice, and Agriculture and Rural Development, Reclaim Advisory Committee o Commissions – Sentencing Commission, Juvenile Sentencing - Sub-Committee(Sentencing Commission), Interstate Compact for Juveniles, Correctional Institution Inspection Committee 2015-2017 – 131st General Assembly o Committees – Judiciary, Local Government, Agriculture and Rural Development, Finance, and Government Accountability and Oversight(Vice-Chair), Joint Legislative Committee on Multi-System Youth o Commissions – Interstate Compact for Juveniles Law Office of Jeffery S. Rezabek, Dayton, OH(January 2003 – Present) Areas of Practice: Juvenile Law, Criminal Law, Guardian Ad Litem Dayton Municipal Court, Dayton, OH(January 2009 – 2012) Substitute Magistrate Greater Dayton Bowling Association(January 2012 – 2016) Legal Counsel Smiley, Carter and Rezabek, Dayton, OH(September 2000 – December 2002) Partner Smiley and Carter, Dayton, OH(March 1998 – August 2000) Associate CASA/Guardian Ad Litem – Montgomery County Juvenile Court - 20 years
Education University of Dayton, School of Law, Dayton, OH - J.D. – 1997 Ohio Bar(1998),New York State Bar(1998) US District Court - Southern District of Ohio(1998), Northern District of Ohio( 2005) The Supreme Court of the United States of America(2015) University of Dayton, Dayton, OH - B.A. Psychology and History – 1991 Judge Rezabek graduated from the University of Dayton with his J.D. in 1997 and his B.A in 1991. Judge Rezabek was admitted to the Ohio, New York, Federal Bars, and US Supreme Court
The Court needs to have new and creative energy to continue to improve on the number of programs that can changed the lives of the children and the families that appear before it. The Court needs to be forward thinking and work with schools, the community and local business to reach out and address any needs to the children and families before they come before the Court. Juvenile Court can be more successful with more robust early intervention programs. Secondly, the Court needs to continue to improve on the administration of decisions when it comes to objections and appeals. There are still too many delays in moving case forward in an efficient manner and we as a court system can improve in this area.
It is both, and a Judge, I work toward those goals with each case that comes before me. The goal of Juvenile Court is to assist and work children and their families that appear before the court who are in trouble or crisis. In working with children who come before the Court, we must work with that child and their family to address their specific issues while correcting the behavior, as being mindful of the safety of the community. Additionally, when working with families that come before the Court, we must strive to assist and work with them to effectively deal with the family issue that brought them to us, while keeping the best interest of the child as the forefront of any decision.
An additional tool that a juvenile court judge needs is the ability to have the discretion to make decisions on each individual case and not be mandated by the legislature for predetermined outcomes. Each case, child or family that appears before the Court deserves that the case is decided on their facts and not predetermined by statute. And maybe the best tool that a juvenile judge could have is a variety of experiences within and outside of the juvenile court which will foster new and innovated ways to address the issues that may come before the Court. Finally, the judge needs to be involved in the community and seeks additional opportunities, connections and innovations to improve our Court and serve the needs of those that come before the Court and the community as a whole.
This is a question that needs to be resolved in the legislature with public input. However, what can be said is that if an adjudicated child is rehabilitated and successfully works with Juvenile Court and all of the services provided, then maybe that individual child should have that second chance and not be labeled for making bad decisions early in his or her life.
The sanctions that can be imposed on children who have been adjudicated are sufficient to appropriately punish the child, protect our community, all while working with that individual child to have them rehabilitated and change their behaviors. The Court needs to use the sanctions, programs and the Court personnel creatively and effective toward each individual client, which will result in successful outcomes. I believe that we have a very strong, diverse and creative Court and by listening to all new and innovated ideas, along with the appropriate sanctions we can make our community safer and have less juvenile crime in Montgomery County.
My judicial experience as a substitute Magistrate in Dayton Municipal Court and my current position as your Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge places me well ahead of my opponent regarding direct experience as a judicial officer. Additionally, I have been afforded first-hand experience with addressing administrative issues facing our court. My 20+ year history of serving Montgomery County in the roles of a private practitioner, State Representative and CASA/Guardian ad Litem has shown me that the needs of children in our judicial system are paramount. Through each of my volunteer activities, from serving as a high school athletics coach to being the chairman and treasurer of a foster care company to holding leadership positions in this community, I have shown my dedication to helping improve our children, families and community in any manner possible. Based on my character, experiences and the results that I have achieved in each job or activity I have participated in, I believe that I am the most qualified to remain your Juvenile Court Judge, as I will continue to be fair and impartial while holding all parties accountable. I will also continue my work towards creating a court system that is both innovative and progressive.
Experience While in college and law school, I interned at Senator John Glenn's office, the Ohio Attorney General's office, the Department of Justice and the Cincinnati Public Defender's office. After law school, I worked at a civil litigation firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. As an associate attorney, I was a civil litigator (discrimination, labor, civil rights and employment cases) and defense attorney. I have lived and practiced law in Montgomery County Juvenile Court since early 2002. I began as an assistant prosecuting attorney in the delinquency section of Juvenile Court. I held different positions within the Prosecutor's office, prosecuting criminal felony crimes by presenting cases to the Grand Jury and on adult felony dockets. I was then assigned to CARE House where I prosecuted adults charged with felony crimes of abuse against children. I have experience prosecuting a range of criminal cases from minor misdemeanors (such as traffic violations) to felonies of the first degree (such as murder). In 2005, I started my own private practice and began working in Juvenile Court as a Guardian ad Litem. Since 2006, I have been a substitute prosecutor for the city of Kettering, a defense and custody attorney and a civil litigator. My civil litigation practice ranges from contract law to wrongful death cases. I also practice special education law, helping children get education tailored to their needs. 13 years of running my own law practice taught me to excel in both law and business. I know how to manage employees, overhead, budget, marketing and community service. I practice often in Montgomery County Juvenile Court. I am also the past Chair of the Dayton Bar Association's Juvenile Law Committee and sat on the Board for the Children's Learning Center, writing grants and raising awareness of dyslexia. Most importantly, I am a mother to my 15 year old son and almost 13 year old daughter.
Education I graduated from Walnut Hills High School (the top high school in Ohio) after attending 7th through 12th grade in the Honors program there. After high school I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in International Affairs. I earned my law degree at the George Washington University Law School (GW), one of the top law schools in the country. I am licensed to practice law in Ohio and Kentucky (inactive), 2 federal courts and the Supreme Court of the United States.
The biggest issues facing our Juvenile Court involve the drug epidemic, both opiates and crystal meth. Synthetic forms of these drugs are all too accessible in our community and the impact they have on children and families is absolutely devastating. We see generations of families now with addiction or suffering the effects of addiction (including the high rate of death among addicts). The Juvenile Court has a family treatment court which works to keep parents sober and reunified with their children, but the capacity of that program is limited (currently to 50 families). We do not have enough foster homes to care for the children of addicted parents (and sometimes grandparents). These children suffer trauma after trauma as they are moved from home to home with little stability. If the Court has to place a child, sometimes the only suitable placement may be out of state. This takes the child further and further away from our community and disrupts both their education and ties to family and friends, often the only security in their lives. The other large issue Juvenile Court is the increase in custody cases. As more and more people choose not to get married, our Court has jurisdiction over more and more custody cases (if parents are not married, custody is determined in Juvenile Court. If parents are married, or divorced, custody issues are addressed in Domestic Relations Court). Our Juvenile Court needs more bandwidth to move the custody cases more quickly through the process. Currently, custody cases can be pending for months before even a first preliminary hearing. In cases of parents who may not be getting parenting time with a child or not getting child support, this is not in the best interests of the children or the family structure so dearly needed in our community today. If I am elected Judge, I will do my best to address both of these issues by allocating more resources to these problems in our Court. Once we know better, we can do better.
The goal of juvenile justice is rehabilitation if at all possible and if the safety of the community is not jeopardized. It is much easier to teach a child than an adult. It is much better to stop a child from offending, than to correct them after an offense. We need to be proactive in the rehabilitation of children. Every person, and every child, makes mistakes. It is the scale of the mistakes that determine if rehabilitation outweighs the need for correction. We cannot allow our communities to be terrorized by juveniles robbing people at gunpoint or shooting people. Once a child has been adjudicated of crimes like that, correction is needed to keep the community safe. My hope is we can stop children from making decisions that are life-altering - to them and the public. We need to educate children and help them understand that the goals in life are to contribute to society, not take from society. We have to change the mindset of many of our delinquent youth. Pride should come from hard work, be it at school or at work or serving your community. Pride should not come from material things. Parents are the best people to teach these lessons, and as we all know, lessons are best taught by example. However, the reality of our current situation is that a lot of our kids do not have good role models in their lives. We as a community need to step up, as many of us are doing, and give our children a helping hand. Nobody is successful at life alone. We all fall down - the difference is whether someone is around to pick a child up until they are strong enough to stand on their own and walk down a good path. My goal if elected Judge is to do what we can to stop children from needing juvenile justice rehabilitation or correction by working with the community to address the causes of Juvenile Court involvement with families. If juvenile justice is needed, then rehabilitation is best over correction, provided our community and victims are safe.
Juvenile Judges could serve our community better if our schools partnered with us to ensure that children were not being criminalized for misbehavior at school. If all schools had school counselors or restorative justice type programs, children may never need to be involved with the Court. If schools had resources to adequately address learning differences so that more children could stay engaged with academics, students would not act out as much. If children had the option of learning a trade, or as a younger child, could look forward to doing a trade program rather than seemingly endless years of academics, children will be more motivated to stick with a lawful and productive path. Right now, many schools are so overwhelmed with behavior issues, learning issues, hunger issues, homelessness, truancy problems that they simply cannot deal with more. So if a child assaults another child, the easiest thing for some schools to do is to call the police and have that child (or both children) charged with a delinquency. If the Court had the tools to help at-risk youth understand long term positive life goals BEFORE they are charged with a delinquency it would benefit children immensely. More social workers or community leaders and volunteers could also provide tools to Judges to help reach at-risk youth. The bottom line is we are all in this together. We, the court system, the schools, the community (families, friends, neighbors, citizens) have to work together to create the tools needed to reach our youth and get back to the days of the default being to work hard with the support of your family, school and community to become a successful, contributing member of society. We need all youth to strive to contribute to our society and add positive energy and resources, not become a drain or burden on society. It is such a waste of human potential to have an individual incarcerated if they can instead live a productive, law-abiding, happy and satisfying life.
Juvenile offenders have the right to have their records sealed unless the law states otherwise. Judges must follow the law as written, and cannot make new laws. Most juvenile offenders can and do have their records sealed. However, some violent offenses (aggravated murder, murder, rape) cannot be sealed or expunged. Additionally, sometimes a juvenile's name is released to the public, not by the Court, but by the public or their attorneys. Once things get published on the internet or social media, it is very difficult to hide or delete. In my opinion, if juvenile offenders meet the legal guidelines to seal their record, or keep their names out of public records, the Court should do so if all requirements under the law are met. This is because we want juveniles, and all people, to have the ability to positively contribute to society by working and providing for themselves and their families. A conviction or adjudication often prevents people from getting employment. If a person can't work, they often do not contribute to our community. It is very defeating, especially if an adjudication happens at a young age. Society should encourage people to be involved and participate in work and community so that we can all stay connected and work together to improve our lives. If someone is excluded from that common mission, they are outcast. There needs to be a very good reason to create that barrier - but a violent offense that makes a juvenile offender not eligible to have their name out of public records (for example, after a conviction/adjudication on aggravated murder, murder or rape) is often a very good reason. This is because the policy behind our laws is to balance the safety of the community against the rights of an individual. The community sometimes needs to know that an individual may pose a safety risk. This allows the community to enact protections to keep everyone safe, which is our legal system's primary priority and responsibility.
Stronger juvenile sanctions are needed to stop offenders recruiting other teens to commit crimes. If elected Judge, I will enforce the law and apply corrections (strong sanctions) to any juvenile held responsible for a crime, or conspiracy to commit a crime (recruitment). Our current laws can be utilized to strongly sanction juvenile offenders. Corrections for juveniles adjudicated responsible for multiple crimes, or the most serious of crimes such as aggravated robbery, will receive escalating corrections with each adjudication from me as Judge. Our laws however are always challenged to keep up with technology. New laws that specifically address recruitment of teens including teaching them how to evade consequences would have to be written by our legislature. Judges do not have the ability to make laws, the legislature writes the laws and judges adjudicate juveniles based on existing laws. If elected Judge, I will partner with parents, family members and the community to increase everyone's awareness of what our children are doing. Juveniles' phones should be monitored. This is challenging if former juvenile offenders are using "burners" or disposable phones that we may not know exist to recruit other teens. We must do our best to know who our teens socializing, texting or group messaging with. We all have to work together to raise our children to be law-abiding productive members of society. If elected Judge, I will work hard to send a clear message that former juvenile offenders SHALL NOT recruit or influence other teens to commit crimes. I will listen and address concerns of the community, including hearing that kids know how to work the system. We need to address problems as they arise. The knowledge of what to say to a PO or court official is a perfect example. I will keep seasoned juvenile offenders on their toes. As a former prosecutor, and a mother of teens, I truly understand the issue. My priority will be ridding our community of this terrorism.
I have 17 years of legal experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney, custody attorney and guardian ad litem. My opponent has never been a prosecutor, and is a career politician. I am running for Judge because I care so much about our kids and court and know I can do the best job. Before this seat opened up, I never envisioned myself in politics. I had the honor of being named Attorney of the Year in 2018 by Juvenile Court Judge Capizzi and Judge Kuntz, before Judge Kuntz' untimely passing. I want to expand and grow the Court's community outreach programs by implementing an educational tutoring program and a trades/apprenticeship program and partnering with our schools and community. I not only have the legal experience and qualifications, but I am also a parent. Being a parent is my biggest joy and life lesson. I have the distinct privilege of mothering two very different children. Through parenting, I learned to advocate for children with different needs, and truly realized how being different is not less than. All of us, and our children, have different experiences, backgrounds, challenges and advantages. We need to foster and grow everyone's potential - not just the children who neatly fit into a privileged box. As well trained and experienced as I am in the law, it cannot hold a candle to the lessons I have learned as a parent. I have run my own private law firm, very successfully, for 13 years while raising my kids. Through my business I have learned about employee management, budgeting, community involvement and much more. I am very fortunate to be married to a wonderful man, my husband of nearly 20 years, Adam Wallace. I think my dedication and devotion to my family and being a parent is something that sets me apart from my opponent, and is my best accomplishment. Lastly, there has never, ever been a female judge of Juvenile Court. I would be so honored if the voters of Montgomery County elect me as their first woman Juvenile Court Judge.