African American judges reach milestone in Cuyahoga County

African American judges reach milestone in Cuyahoga County
African American Judges in Cuyahoga County

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - For the first time ever, there are more women than men sitting on the General Division Bench of the Common Pleas Court in Cuyahoga County.

There’s also a record number of African Americans on that bench as well.

African American Judges reach milestone in Cuyahoga County

“We haven’t ever had that before, so it’s a pretty big deal. It’s just a reflection of what’s going on in this country,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Wanda Jones.

Judge Jones calls it a turning point in the justice system.

“We have four African American people on the common pleas bench in the General Division.”

Last year’s election created a wave of diversity in Cuyahoga County Courts.

“There’s Shirley Strickland Saffold, Cassandra Collier Williams and in this last election cycle, Debra Turner was elected and then I was appointed in December,” said Judge Jones.

These women make up four of 34 judges in the Common Pleas Court General Division, a number Jones fears may not last for long.

“Debra Turner will only be able to do one term because she’ll age out. I believe one other judge will age out and so that means if there aren’t more African Americans seeking judicial office in the county’s general division, it’s gonna be back the way it was a few years ago with only one or two,” said Jones.

The judge is hoping to see more minorities in the court system, not just African Americans. As a Republican, she’s also encouraging younger generations to get involved, regardless of race, gender and political party.

“There’s a way to get African Americans involved in political process and it doesn’t have to be just one party and one track. If we do want to see a diverse bench that reflects the way the city looks we have to make a conscious effort to do that,” Jones concluded.

Justice Melody Stewart also made history as the first African American woman elected to the Supreme Court in this past election.

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