Login | February 17, 2019

Struthers Muni Court Judge discusses plans

Legal News Reporter

Published: February 8, 2018

From streamlining operations and revamping the probation department to starting diversion programs and courts––those are just some of the changes Struthers Municipal Court Judge Dominic Leone III looks to make.

Judge Leone, who previously served as Struthers law director and prosecutor, was sworn in on Dec. 21, 2017 and took the bench on Jan. 2.

He replaced longtime Judge James R. Lanzo, who could not run for re-election because of age restrictions.

“As prosecutor you get to know the communities our court serves,” said Judge Leone, 39. “I handled over 15,000 criminal cases in Struthers Municipal Court, which allowed me to get a good understanding of some of the problems that exist.

“My overall goal as judge is to have a positive impact on the community.”

Catherine Miller, who served as Judge Leone’s secretary for four years while he was prosecutor and law director, said she believes he will do an excellent job as judge.

“Judge Leone has the biggest heart of anyone I know,” said Miller. “As prosecutor, he took into account the opinions of defendants, victims, police and the attorneys.

“He’s a very hard worker and I know he has a number of things he wants to change to improve the court system. I’m confident he will be able to make a difference,” said Miller.

John Zomoida, who took the reins as Struthers law director and prosecutor, said Judge Leone understands how to balance compassion and discipline when making decisions.

“Judge Leone is one of the most sincere and nicest individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” said Zomoida. “He performed his duties as prosecutor and law director professionally and competently.

“He was reasonable to deal with and understands that most people are not criminals, they are just people who’ve made mistakes. However, when sentencing is necessary he will certainly hammer the gavel. I believe he will conduct himself with the same sense of balance on the bench.”

Born in Youngstown and raised in Struthers, Judge Leone graduated from Struthers High School.

In 2000, he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from The Ohio State University.

He later enrolled at the school now known as Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

After receiving his juris doctor in 2007, he moved back to Struthers, opening his own firm, where he handled matters ranging from family and criminal law to bankruptcy.

In 2011, he ran for Struthers law director on the Democratic ticket.

“I was unopposed,” said Judge Leone. “The former law director and prosecutor Carol Clemente Wagner contacted me and mentored me after she decided not to run.”

He began on Jan. 1, 2012 and was elected a second time in 2015.

“As law director you have the right to assign the prosecutor, so I kept both positions,” he said. “I was very busy. I still kept my law office open, but I tailored my focus to bankruptcy.

“During my time as prosecutor, I dealt with over 15,000 cases so I am very familiar with the court and its procedures.

“I think I did a good job reducing crime,” said Judge Leone.

New Middletown Police Chief Vincent D’Egidio said Judge Leone possesses “a law enforcement-oriented attitude.

“The judge wants to make sure the sentences are just and result in the best possible outcome for all parties involved.

“When dealing with a defendant, he will look at all the options, including drug counseling, because he wants to give people the chance to continue to be good citizens,” said D’Egidio.

“He did an excellent job as prosecutor and I have every confidence he will improve the court system.”

As Struthers Municipal Court judge, Judge Leone is charged with presiding over traffic, misdemeanor and preliminary felony hearings involving incidents in Struthers, Lowellville, New Middletown, Springfield Township, Poland Village and Poland Township. 

There is also a civil division, which handles lawsuits up to $15,000.

“My long-term goal is to start a drug and veterans court right here in Struthers,” said Judge Leone. “In the meantime, we will treat our veterans through probation.”

He said he is working to make the court more efficient.

“We currently set up pretrial and trial with the dates at arraignment with the hope to quickly resolve cases,” said Judge Leone.

The judge said he intends to streamline case management by cross training the clerks so that if someone is out sick one of the other clerks can easily fill in.

Struthers Municipal Court Clerk Lorraine Sciortino described Judge Leone as “fair and willing to listen to what all the parties have to say.

“He does not rush through hearings or make a ruling until all the facts are in.”

She said cross training is important because there are “only a few of us here. We should all be familiar with at least the basics of one another’s duties so we can step in if someone is at lunch or out for the day.

“Also being so busy, especially on court days, it makes the office run more efficiently when we can jump in and help each other,” Sciortino said. “So I feel cross training is beneficial for good customer service and makes things run smooth for us.”

Judge Leone said the court is currently not utilizing all of the local community drug and mental health resources available.

“I would like to take advantage of the services these agencies provide through probation,” Judge Leone said.

He said court officials have applied for a technology grant from the Ohio Supreme Court, which he would like to use to purchase new computers and equipment.

“Part of the grant would be used to upgrade security in the courthouse.”

Once the new equipment is in place, Judge Leone said he wants to begin video arraignments.

Another item on his agenda, upgrading the court website.

“I would like to have procedural forms available and other information that details what people should expect when they arrive in court,” he said. “I would also like to have a payment kiosk available at court so people could pay fines with credit cards while here.

“I am honored to have been elected to serve the communities the court serves,” said Judge Leone. “I will work hard to protect these areas by incarcerating those that pose a risk to the public and treating those that are dependent on drugs so they can become better citizens.”