April 24, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
53°F

Candidates know their way around a courtroom

Voters have two experienced candidates on the ballot in the race for 9th District Court of Appeals judge.

Incumbent Clair Dickinson has served 12 years as judge, and has more than 30 years of experience as an attorney. His opponent, Jennifer Hensal, has 19 years of experience as an attorney, both in private practice and as an assistant law director and assistant prosecutor.

Clair Dickinson

Jennifer Hensal

The 9th District Court of Appeals handles cases from Lorain, Medina, Summit and Wayne counties. Appeals come from municipal, common pleas, juvenile and probate courts.

Dickinson, 61, lives in Akron. He received his law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law at Cleveland State University in 1977. After graduation, he served as a judicial law clerk for two years before entering private practice.

In 1983, he began work for the law firm of Brouse McDowell in Akron, where he served until 1993 when he was elected to his first six-year term as a 9th District Court of Appeals judge.

He lost his bid for re-election in 1998 and returned to the law firm the next year. He won back the seat on the appellate court in November 2006.

Dickinson said he gained a unique insight while handling cases in the late 1990s between his two terms.

“I handled a lot of appellate cases,” Dickinson said.

As judge, Dickinson said he and the other five appellate judges each consider about 360 cases each year. Three judges hear each case and take turns writing lead opinions. Dickinson said he writes about 120 opinions each year.

“I enjoy writing,” he said. “It’s work, but it’s satisfying work when I write an opinion I’m proud of.”

Dickinson has served as a member of Summit County Council, including three years as president of Council.

Dickinson was unopposed in the Democratic primary in March.

Hensal was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Like Dickinson, Hensal has a history of serving the public. She received her law degree from the University of Toledo in 1993, and has a law practice in Medina County.

Hensal, 45, an Akron resident, serves as an assistant law director and prosecutor in Wadsworth and as the assistant village solicitor for Seville. She said her experience in both public and private law makes her a well-rounded candidate.

“It’s important for all the folks you represent to make sure you have reasoned decisions, not just timely decisions,” she said. “It’s important to have a tacit understanding of what’s going on. I’ve been on both the public and the private side.”

Along with experience, Hensal said knowledge of the law is the most important part of the job, especially since appeals court rulings often set precedents for other cases.

“We don’t expect them to make laws, we expect them to have a strong background,” she said. “The 9th District is ruling on cases that affect everyone.”

Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.