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Joy Malek Oldfield takes the bench

Judge Joy Malek Oldfield. Photo courtesy of Joy Malek Oldfield.

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 4, 2012

Akron Municipal Court has a new judge on the bench. Joy Malek Oldfield started Jan. 3 and she will be ceremoniously sworn in tomorrow in the Ocasek auditorium in downtown Akron.

Malek Oldfield said her new profession came much sooner in her life than she anticipated.

“I had always thought it was something I would want to do later in my career.

“”A lot of it is timing,” she said of her decision to run for muni court in 2011. “I left my practice (in 2010) thinking, ‘I’m going to run for judge one day. Who knows when.’ Suddenly I heard, well there might be an opportunity next year.”

After practicing as long as I had, I knew how important a judge can be to a case,” said Malek Oldfield, a 2000 graduate of The University of Akron School of Law who since 1999, worked with Hill Hardman Oldfield, Hill/Company and Scanlon & Gearinger. “And I thought we needed more judges who take the time to learn about the case before you see them and who care about the people involved without knowing them.

“And I just know I will be that kind of person. That’s what really drove me to try to do it. I didn’t know I would try this soon, after starting with Judge (Elinore Marsh) Stormer in February. I came here to learn criminal law and get some experience presiding over matters for her. In the hopes that when I did decide to run I would have rounded out my portfolio so to speak, but this opportunity came up, so I took it.”

It wasn’t until more than 90 percent of the precincts came in Nov. 11 that Malek Oldfield had confidence that she’d won the race against incumbent Tom McCarty for a six-year term. That was around 11 p.m on election night. “It was a blessing. I was so happy,” she said. “All I heard was, you won’t beat so-and-so. This is your first race, you never win your first race.” Others encouraged her to instead run for Summit County Common Pleas Court, where she had more experience practicing, but Malek Oldfield said she didn’t feel like she had extensive enough of criminal background for that court and has a lot more to learn.

“That’s not to suggest matters I’m going to take on in municipal court are not serious, because they definitely are, but there’s a spectrum of offenses.”

“I do think municipal court is a good place to start, and frankly, who knows, that may be the place I’ll ever be. When I take on something, I’m committed to it. I’m committed to municipal court. I see things that I want to change, I want to make things better, but I don’t think you can do that in a year, you can do that in two years. You need to spend time, and so, I will.”

Thereafter a lot of people asked about her campaign strategy.

“I really had to do two things: work very hard, and raise the money to get my name out there,” Malek Oldfield said. “By working very hard, that’s obviously part of raising money but it’s also just being everywhere, going to everything, and for me that wasn’t as difficult because I’ve been involved in a lot of different groups. This was just very concentrated and a lot at once.

“That was the main strategy. It sounds simple enough, but it was hard, especially with young kids,” said the mother of Amelia, age 4 and Alana, age 2.

“We’re a modern family and my husband (Charlie OIdfield) and I give 50/50 (percent), but during the campaign it was definitely him giving 90 and me 10.”

Malek Oldfield said she hesitates to share what needs to be changed because she doesn’t want to sound presumptuous.

“I do think that the court needs policies to govern how it runs no matter who’s in charge, no matter if Republicans are there, or Democrats there, or the case it’s been for awhile–a deadlock.

“I think policies need to be in place so that things run regardless of political affiliations and that way there’s not as much discretion in terms of administrative stuff. I’d like to see some policies implemented so we know how … who’s the presiding judge, who’s assigned to different specialty courts. There’s a procedure in place.

“I want everybody to work well together, and I have never worked anywhere where I haven’t been a part of making that happen. I don’t think this will be any different.”

Malek Oldfield said she plans to stay active in the community as a judge, but will have to give up some things, including wearing sweatpants to the grocery store.

“I’m going to work very hard to do the right thing, to take care of my docket and to take care of the people that are involved in it and to continue improving our court. I hope that people will support me through that.”

On board with her is bailiff Julie Ellison, her good friend and former paralegal at Scanlon & Gearinger. Malek Oldfield said she does not plan on hiring a judicial attorney right away, but will use student law clerks which is typical for the court.

“Fortunately it’s a six year term,” she said, “and I don’t have to worry about anything except doing my job.”