Local attorney Dawn Cantalamessa has nearly two decades of courtroom experience as an assistant district attorney in Mahoning County and, most recently, Ashtabula County.
Cantalamessa, 48, believes her felony trial experience makes her the top candidate in the May 3 Democratic primary for Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge.
Local attorney Sean O’Brien, an anti-judge Democratic candidate, has served his community in a variety of capacities, including as an elected lawmaker in both Columbus houses; as an assistant district attorney in Trumbull and Columbiana counties; and as a local defense attorney.
O’Brien, 53, of Brookfield, believes his role on both sides of the courtroom has made him a strong candidate for the judgeship.
We endorse Sean O’Brien in the Democratic primary race for judge.
No Republicans have filed for the seat, which will be vacated by incumbent Justice W. Wyatt McKay. If no one runs as an independent or write-in candidate, the winner of the May 3 Democratic primary will have an unimpeded path to the bench until the general election in November.
Cantalamessa says her time in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court educated her on “all kinds of rules of evidence”. She says she can hit the ground while running.
Cantalamessa’s judicial experience is very remarkable. For many years, she successfully prosecuted numerous high-profile homicide cases in Mahoning County that resulted in life sentences for the defendants.
However, we would be remiss if we did not raise our concerns about an incident last year in which Mahoning Common Pleas Judge John Durkin ordered Cantalamessa removed from a murder case. . At that time, the judge said Cantalamessa was displaying a “reckless indifference in search of the truth” regarding evidence that was not provided to defense counsel in a timely manner. He also said she lied about identifying a witness.
“Leaving this behavior unchecked would compromise the integrity of our justice system,” the judge said of Cantalamessa’s actions.
Following the judge’s decision, Mahoning County District Attorney Paul Gains placed Cantalamessa on paid administrative leave. She later resigned and now works as an assistant district attorney in Ashtabula County.
Cantalamessa told us that it was difficult to defend herself in this case because other assistant prosecutors handled the hearing on the case and she was limited in what she could say. As for the allegations that she lied, Cantalamessa said the comment the judge deemed objectionable was her “defend the evidence”. Cantalamessa also stressed that she remains a lawyer in good standing.
When asked his opinion on the Cantalamessa issue, O’Brien said the episode should serve as a reminder that a prosecutor has “mighty powers”.
We believe that O’Brien’s service in the Ohio legislature as a senator and state representative also gives him a good understanding of what goes into creating laws he would be sworn to uphold. as a judge of the common pleas.
Since her 2020 loss to incoming state Senator Sandra O’Brien, an Ashtabula County Republican, O’Brien has returned to private practice in Warren and now also works as an assistant district attorney in Columbiana County. He assured us that there was no conflict of interest in working as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney because the two offices are in different appellate jurisdictions.
Although Cantalamessa has significant courtroom experience, she is limited to criminal prosecutions.
It should also be noted that the Trumbull County Bar Association chose O’Brien as its “preferred candidate” Last week.
“I think I’m the better candidate because I think I’m more complete,” O’Brien said, referring not only to his work on both sides of criminal cases, but also to his private practice work on civil cases.
We agree. We believe his background as a prosecutor and defense attorney gives O’Brien a unique perspective that would maintain the necessary balance on the scales of justice.
We endorse O’Brien in the Democratic primary for Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge.