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Longtime Akron Muni Court Clerk of Courts Jim Laria to retire

On Oct. 31,longtime Akron Municipal Court Clerk of Courts Jim Laria will officially retire, passing the torch to a yet unnamed replacement. (Photo courtesy of Jim Laria)

Legal News Reporter

Published: October 29, 2021

It’s been more than 20 years since Jim Laria began serving as Akron Municipal Court Clerk of Courts.
During his tenure, the clerk’s office has undergone major technological changes that have improved customer service and made court records easily accessible to the public.
“The clerk’s office is fully now automated,” said Laria. “We can take payments online and members of the public can access court records from the comfort of their homes. In the old days, they would have to make a trip to the office to look up their records.
“When I first started working at Akron Municipal Court as a bailiff in 1979, a correctable typewriter was considered an electronic piece of equipment,” said Laria.
But on Oct. 31, Laria will officially retire as clerk of courts, passing the torch to a yet unnamed replacement.
“It’s time,” said Laria, whose term runs through Dec. 31, 2023. “I’m ready for a change. I’ve done as much as I can for the office and I have other things I want to do with my life.”
Akron Municipal Court Administrative/Presiding Judge Ron Cable said Laria will be missed.
“Jim Laria and our judges have a good working relationship,” Judge Cable said in an email. “He has been a dedicated public servant and I wish him nothing but the best as he enters the next chapter of his life.”
Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams described Laria as a “well-respected and well-liked” Clerk of Courts, who is very deserving of the confidence voters have shown in him.
“I nominated Jim for clerk of courts in 1997 and he went on to hold the office for four full terms in a heavily Democratic district, which is proof of the outstanding job that he did over the years.
“The Democrats never gave him a free ride either,” said Williams. “They always put up their best candidates to run against him.”
A native of Akron, Laria received his bachelor’s degree in education from The University of Akron. He also studied court administration at the National Judicial College and was among the first class to receive a Certified Professional Clerk designation from the Ohio Association of Municipal Court Clerks (now known as the Ohio Association of Municipal/County Court Clerks).
“I was initially planning on being a high school teacher and football coach, but when I graduated they were not hiring teachers, so I took a chance and applied for a job as a bailiff.”
As fate would have it, then Akron Municipal Court Judge Bill Spicer hired Laria as his bailiff in 1979, setting him up for what would become a lifelong career in the court system.
When Judge Spicer took the Summit County Probate Court bench in 1980, he asked Laria to serve as court administrator, which he did for the next 12 years.
Laria moved back to Akron Municipal Court in December 1991 to serve as then clerk of courts Judy Hunter’s chief deputy clerk. When Judge Hunter took the Summit County Juvenile Court bench in 1996, Laria was appointed to replace her.
He began serving in the role in January 1997, winning election to a fifth term in November 2017.
As clerk of courts, Laria is responsible for maintaining and protecting court records, carrying out all court orders and collecting and disbursing monies to the court.
“I look at myself as a business agent for the court,” said Laria. “It’s a challenging job because the law is always changing and just about the time you get comfortable with the new rules things change again. It keeps you on your toes because you have to stay current, which is what I enjoy the most about the job.”
Laria is an active member and former president of the Ohio Association of Municipal Court Clerks (now known as the Ohio Association of Municipal/County Court Clerks).
He was also the association’s education chairman and served as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and sergeant-at-arms at the Northeastern Ohio Municipal Court Clerks Association.
Prior to taking on the role of clerk of courts, he was an elected member of the Akron Public Schools Board of Education, where he chaired the Accountability and Long Range Planning Committee.
Laria is a former vice president and previous longtime member of Child Guidance & Family Solutions and served as treasurer for the Firestone High Aquatic Association and the Falcon Runners Club.
Laria has and continues to be an active member of the Summit County Republican Party. He is currently the executive vice chair of the Summit County Republican Central Committee, which will appoint his replacement.
“Back in 1980 Jim supervised the pages at the Republican National Committee’s Convention in Detroit, which nominated former President Ronald Reagan,” said Williams. “That was a very big responsibility and he was very young at the time.
“Clerk of courts is not a glamourous job, but it is an important one,” said Williams. “Whoever is appointed will have a big job to do and big shoes to fill.”
“I am very proud of the many technological changes that have been implemented during my watch,” said Laria.
“It’s been a pleasure to work in a progressive environment, where the court and its judges are constantly coming up with cutting-edge solutions to help constituents solve their problems.”
Laria, who turns 67 on Dec. 1 has two grown children and three grandchildren.
While he hasn’t nailed down all of his future plans, he and his wife Nancy do plan to spend more time with their grandchildren.
“My kids live in Arkansas and Chicago and the pandemic made it difficult to see them so my wife and I are looking forward to making up for lost time,” said Laria.
“I plan to take things as they come and enjoy life for a bit,” he said. “This past year has been a real challenge with Covid. There were so many changes and a lot of the responsibility fell on the shoulders of the clerk’s office, which had to keep the court functional during the pandemic.”