Q : Why did you decide to run for judge?

A : I believe in equal justice for everyone.  I have a passion for public service, and I worked hard to become a lawyer so that I could help protect people’s rights.  I’ve spent the last several years helping low-income individuals navigate the criminal justice system; I have extensive experience with both the advantages and the challenges of our legal system.  In my career, I’ve worked under the guidance of two remarkable judges – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and United States District Court Judge Lesley Wells.  I learned from these judges how important the fair and effective operation of the courts is.  I look forward to serving the people of Cuyahoga County as your judge.

Q : What will make you a good judge?

A : My professional career has been dedicated to public service and serving the needs of my community.  I have the legal expertise required to be a first-rate judge: working as a staff attorney for a federal judge and as an Assistant Public Defender, I have become well versed in state and federal law.  I have extensive experience in Common Pleas Court, the Court of Appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court, and federal court.  Finally, I am thoughtful, diligent, even-tempered, and willing to make tough decisions – the traits required of a judge.

Q : How will you work to improve the justice system in Cuyahoga County?

A : A judge’s fundamental task is to strengthen respect for the courts.  To do this, I will work to increase transparency, improve access to the courts, and seek consistency in the outcomes.  We must ensure a fair process, and strive for maximum efficiency.  To this end, I will work closely with the Court Administrator, the Administrative Judge, the other Common Pleas Judges, and the rest of the court staff.

Q : What kind of law have you practiced?

A : I have been working for the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office Appellate Division since August 2005, handling a wide variety of cases in numerous courts.  In my appellate work, I have regularly reviewed felony trials, handled more than 150 cases in the Eighth District Court of Appeals, and argued several cases in the Ohio Supreme Court.  I practice regularly in Common Pleas Court, where I handle post-conviction issues, argue complex motions/legal issues, and serve as co-counsel on more involved felony cases.  I also represent individuals in federal court on petitions for habeas corpus.

Prior to August 2005, I was employed as a federal staff attorney for the Honorable Lesley Wells. I assisted Judge Wells with all civil and criminal proceedings, including pre-trial hearings, trials, and post-trial hearings. I drafted numerous orders for Judge Wells: administrative appeals, dispositive motions, suppression motions, and habeas corpus petitions involving the death penalty.

Q : What is your relation to Judge James D. Sweeney?

A : Retired Judge James D. Sweeney is my father-in-law.  When Jim’s daughter, Anne, and I married in 2004, we knew we’d soon start a family. We also knew we wanted to share a single last name with our children.  Anne is an only child and the only person in her immediate family to carry on the Sweeney name.  I was born with the surname Goretzke, and I already have five Goretzke nephews. So after much discussion, I decided to do something unconventional for men but often unquestioned for women, I changed my last name to Sweeney.

Q : What is the Court of Common Pleas?

A : In Cuyahoga County, the Court of Common Pleas is the trial court of general jurisdiction. The Court hears and decides serious criminal cases (such as drug crimes, burglaries and assaults).  The Court also hears civil cases (such as car accidents and property disputes) where the amount of money involved is over $15,000.  For more information about the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, click here (http://cp.cuyahogacounty.us/internet/index.aspx) to view the Court’s website.

Q : What does a judge do on the Court of Common Pleas?

A : A Court of Common Pleas judge is a general trial court judge. The judge hears both criminal and civil cases. Some cases go to trial, but many cases are resolved with settlements or plea agreements prior to trial. The judge works with the attorneys, parties, and his or her staff attorneys to work out these pretrial resolutions. When a case goes to trial, the judge presides over the trial, instructs the jury, and ensures that all parties to the case experience a fair process.