• Clevelandish Team

Get to Know the Candidates: Cuyahoga County Judicial Races


If you haven't heard the news, there is an election next week. Kind of a big one, too. And while we all know the two names at the top of the ballot, most of the decisions Clevelanders must make on November 3 (or earlier) are local judicial races where the candidates are not as familiar. In Cuyahoga County, there is only one presidential race, yet nineteen local judicial races (plus two Ohio Supreme Court races) on this year's ballot. Of those, five are for seats on the 8th District Court of Appeals and fourteen are for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas bench.


Few races are as important as these. Local judges hear both civil and criminal cases, shape the rights and punishments of criminal defendants (e.g., Cuyahoga County leads the nation in prisoners sent to death), and have the ability to reform our local justice system which recently had its reputation tarnished—for the entire country to hear—on the third season of the Serial podcast. Though many of these consequential races are uncontested in 2020, we wanted to help Clevelanders get to know the candidates running in the contested races. We reached out to the campaigns with questionnaires asking about the candidates' backgrounds and favorite Cleveland spots and traditions. We've included their responses below.


Note: We reached out to all the candidates in contested races and only received responses from those pictured below.

8th District Court of Appeals

There are five races for the court of appeals on the ballot and three involve candidates running unopposed: Sean C. Gallagher, Larry A. Jones, and Anita Laster Mays. The two contested races feature (1) Lisa Forbes versus Ray Headen and (2) Emanuella D. Groves versus Pamela A. Hawkins. Neither Forbes nor Headen responded to our email questionnaire; however, more information about the two can be found on their websites: Forbes website and Headen website. Responses from Groves and Hawkins are below.


Emanuella D. Groves vs. Pamela A. Hawkins

Emanuella D. Groves

-Education: B.B.A. (in three years) from Kent State University, with honor of Cum Laude; J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

-Go-to local restaurant: Zanzibar at Shaker Square.

-Favorite Cleveland festival/annual tradition: 11th Congressional Parade down Kinsman Road. I have participated in the parade for 20 years.

-Favorite cup of coffee in town: Since I have to eat a donut with coffee, I am not a coffee drinker.

-Favorite Cleveland sports memory: Cavaliers Championship final game and parade.

-One experience you feel most prepares you for the job: Writing of my opinion which found the RTA Healthline fare enforcement unconstitutional.

-Interesting fact: My 2 children played basketball growing up and the Call & Post Newspaper wrote an article, "While mom sits the bench, the children run the court."

-Website: www.groves2020.net


Pamela A. Hawkins

-Education: Bachelor’s in Child Development and Psychology from Harding University; Master’s in Education from Cleveland State University; Master of Science and Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University; Worked as a social worker for 12 years before going to law school; J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

-Go-to local restaurant: Vincinato’s (Lyndhurst) or Momocho (Ohio City) for sure!

-Favorite Cleveland festival/annual tradition: The Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Festival, the pastries are amazing and it’s such a fun atmosphere! The Firefighter Memorial Ride is another favorite, I volunteer every year and it’s always a good time!

-Favorite cup of coffee in town: I don’t drink coffee but a hot chocolate at the Browns Stadium is my favorite warm drink!

-Favorite Cleveland sports memory: I’m a huge fan of Cleveland sports, especially the Browns. I’ve seen so many great moments because I’ve been attending games since I was young, and I’ve only missed 3 games since the team came back in 1999. I would have to say the Kardiac Kids are my favorite, they were so fun and exciting to watch.

-One experience you feel most prepares you for the job: So much of my career has given me preparation for a position like this; I’ve been all over the county, worked with so many different people but preparing and arguing appeals on behalf of my clients in the 8th and 9th district I feel has made me the most prepared.

-Interesting fact: I’ve been a successful small business owner for many years, I run my own law practice! I also enjoy traveling to visit my many nieces and nephews, it’s taken me all over the country (Florida, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, etc!) and the world (Belgium, Germany, England, etc!).

-Website: www.pamelahawkinsforjudge.com



Court of Common Pleas

There are fourteen races for the court of common pleas and ten involve candidates running unopposed: Michael J. Russo, Nancy A. Fuerst, Nancy R. McDonnell, Brendan J. Sheehan, Nancy Margaret Russo, Shannon M. Gallagher, Deena R. Calabrese, Leslie Ann Celebrezze, Anthony J. Russo, and Laura J. Gallagher. In the contested races, three are for the general division—(1) Richard A. Bell versus Wanda C. Jones, (2) Robert C. McClelland versus Andrew J. Santoli, and (3) Kenneth R. Callahan versus William Vodrey—and one is for the domestic relations division—Colleen Ann Reali versus James Cochran. Responses from Callahan, Vodrey, and Reali are below.


Kenneth R. Callahan vs. William Vodrey (General Division)

Kenneth R. Callahan

-Education: St. Ignatius High School; Studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland; B.A. from John Carroll; J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

-Go-to local restaurant: Nighttown (Cleveland Heights).

-Favorite Cleveland festival/annual tradition: The Feast in Little Italy.

-Favorite cup of coffee in town: Starbucks.

-Favorite Cleveland sports memory: I presided over the Cleveland Browns cases in 1995, was the subject of national news. Cavs in 7 in 2016.

-One experience you feel most prepares you for the job: 16 years of experience on the Common Pleas Court.

-Interesting fact: I write book reviews.


William Vodrey

-Education: Honors graduate of Oberlin College (awarded the Alumni Medal in 2018 for "outstanding, sustained or unique service" to the college); J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law (received the Distinguished Recent Graduate Award in 2002; Mentor of the Year Award in 2019).

-Go-to local restaurant: Tommy's on Coventry (outstanding milkshakes!).

-Favorite Cleveland festival/annual tradition: Chalk Festival at the Cleveland Museum of Art; my wife Susan, our three sons and I try to go every year.

-Favorite cup of coffee in town: Not a coffee connoisseur by any means, but I like the focus of 3-19 Coffee on great coffee, art, and community.

-Favorite Cleveland sports memory: Cheering for the Tribe in the World Series in 1997!

-One experience you feel most prepares you for the job: Nineteen years of continuous judicial experience, committed to seeing that justice is done for all, without fear or favor, bias or prejudice.

-Interesting fact: I appear briefly in the first "Avengers" movie, filmed in the Old Courthouse downtown (watch for me just before Loki grabs the guy in the German art gallery).

-Website: www.votevodrey.com


Colleen Ann Reali vs. James Cochran (Domestic Relations Division)

Colleen Ann Reali

-Education: Magnificat High School; B.A. from Fordham University; J.D. from St. John’s University.

-Go-to local restaurant: Stone Mad Pub and Bocce on West 65th Street in Gordon Square.

-Favorite Cleveland festival/annual tradition: St. Patrick’s Day Parade, of course!

-Favorite cup of coffee in town: Civilization Coffee Shop in Tremont or Ready Set coffee roasters in Gordon Square.

-Favorite Cleveland sports memory: Cavs Championship Parade!

-One experience you feel most prepares you for the job: I am the Magistrate in the Domestic Relations Court where I seek office. I have the judicial experience, background and temperament to make needed improvements in the Court.

-Interesting fact: I spent my summers as a child on a farm in Ireland. No phone, no TV, just nature!

-Website: www.colleenannrealiforjudge.com


James Cochran

Cochran did not reply to our email questionnaire, but more information can be found on his website here.

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