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Local lawyer hopes to fill municipal bench vacancy

Julie Schafer

Associate Editor

Published: April 23, 2013

Local attorney Julie Schafer looks to rely on her unique experience in business and education in her recently launched campaign for the Akron Municipal Court bench. After working in the Los Angeles costume industry, starting two businesses, earning four degrees and practicing law for 11 years, Schafer’s hopes to don a black robe in 2014.

“I’ll be one of those people that skids in to heaven and says, ‘well, I did everything I could possibly do,’” Shafer said in her Fairlawn office.

Though her practice revolves mostly around domestic and juvenile law, Schafer said her familiarity with business would help her run an efficient and well-managed bench. Schafer also said her experience as a guardian ad litem, mediator and foster parent would help her in the more human aspects of the job.

Sandi Morgan, Schafer’s legal assistant of eight years, said the mother-turned-attorney was born with her most valuable trait.

“Her strength is that she’s opinionated and she cuts to the heart of the matter,” Morgan said. “Her weakness is that she’s opinionated and she cuts the heart of the matter.”

Schafer laughed and agreed. “That’s the problem with taking a stand. Half the people are not going to like what you do, and the other half will be happy,” she said.

“It’s risky having an opinion,” she continued. “My objective would be to make sure that any decision is explained well enough and reasoned well enough that even if you don’t like it, you’re going to understand it.”

Schafer graduated from Medina High School in 1975 and soon after earned an associate’s degree in fashion merchandising from Brooks College in Los Angeles. She started her own costuming company, Have It Made, which catered to the likes of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Eventually, she brought her only daughter, Morgan, back to Ohio and started her second business, North Coast Kids. Schafer created children’s sportswear, supplied the Norton High School marching band and sewed flags used by Hale Farm and Village. Over time, the business hired 15 employees and grossed $450,000 in sales before her exit.

“I know how to sew,” she said. “It’s a hereditary thing.”

After working for Pneumatic Scale Angelus, a Cuyahoga Falls packaging supplies company, Schafer returned to school, earning her bachelor’s at Hiram Weekend College. After her daughter finished high school, Schafer continued to raise three foster children as she pursued a juris doctor and master of business administration at The University of Akron.

Around that time, Schafer began taking in foster children as a way to help the community as her daughter graduated high school. Schafer also began serving on the Copley-Fairlawn School Board, acting as its president when she graduated from Akron Law. She is now president of the Northeast Region Executive Committee of the Ohio School Board Association, which includes 222 school districts from Steubenville to Lorain County.

In 2008 and 2011, Schafer adopted two young boys she had been fostering. A few feet from her desk sits a crib for another foster child. Schafer says she drops off three children to three different places each morning before arriving at work. Her daughter Morgan is married and currently a student at Akron Law.

Two seats will be contested at the Akron Municipal Court in November: Judge Katarina Cook’s and Judge John E. Holcolmb’s. Because Judge Cook has announced plans to run this year, Schafer said she will focus on Judge Holcomb’s vacant seat.

Schafer her campaign will focus attention on how her experience as a guardian ad litem, mediator and foster parent helps augment her business experience in preparation for the municipal bench.

“The most important thing is to hear people without a preconceived notion of who they are or what they are,” she said.

“I try to stay as impartial as I can. It should be impartial – it’s community service.”