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Fearless for Fairness

 By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, PhD
The Truth Contributor

 I dared to speak when I should have been quiet.

                   - Lani Guinier


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

The 2020 judicial election between Alfonso Gonzalez, the incumbent, and challenger Lori Olender for the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas is among the few highly contested local races.

Olender, a Democrat, has been described by peers as ďforthright and fearless in her pursuit of justice and fairness, who wonít bow under pressure to do otherwise.Ē

I spoke with the plainspoken native Toledoan about her quest to move up the judicial ladder to Common Pleas from the Juvenile Division, where she has served the past 13 years.

Here is our conversation.

Perryman: Please describe your background for our readers.

Olender:  Iím from Toledo, born and raised, a graduate of Whitmer High School.  I went to the University of Toledo for undergraduate and law school. I passed the bar exam in May of 1997. I then worked as a public defender before Julia Bates hired me to be the child victim prosecutor over in adult court.  I worked in all 10 court rooms for nine years with all 10 judges trying over 50 jury trials. In 2006 they were looking for somebody in the juvenile division to train new prosecutors to be trial attorneys. With all my trial background and experience in the adult division it was a good fit.

I also sit on various boards trying to reevaluate diversion for kids and do a lot of certifications. I still carry a full caseload too.

Lori Olender

Perryman: Please talk about the importance of good quality leadership at the juvenile level.

Olender:  The best time to rehabilitate a person is when theyíre at that age (under 18).  So, itís imperative to know all the new diversions and other programs that they now have.  However, sometimes kids have committed an offense requiring that they go to jail or be certified as an adult. In other cases, though, we try to do whatever we can to keep juveniles in the community and try to wrap ourselves around the whole family. Thatís what the court does.  And working in the prosecutorís office, obviously we agree with that process. 

Perryman: Talk about the personal experiences that have equipped and shaped your decision-making.

Olender:  I grew up in I what I call my Jeep family.  My mom and dad were divorced when I was age two. For nine years then, my mom raised myself and my sister Michelle, who had Down Syndrome. And then my mom married my dad, Gary, and I got two really great dads out of the whole deal. 

I was always sort of a caretaker with my sister who had special needs, and that gives you a different perspective.  I have another sister, 17 years younger, who was born when I was a junior in high school.  I was already, sort of, in a mom role with her, and I think thatís also what shaped my decision-making, like being a prosecutor and how I deal with each case that comes before me. And then, finally, I come from a strong union family.  UAW on momís side and Teamsters on my dadís side, so blue-collar all the way.

Perryman: What principles are the most important for a judge serving on the Court of Common Pleas?

Olender: First and foremost is being fair and impartial as well as respect - respect of each defense counsel, prosecutor, defendant, victims, witnesses, everyone.  Iíve always held that up the whole time Iíve been up in the courthouses and Iíve been in 3 of the courthouses in Toledo now.  Also, I think the main goal is to protect the public from the criminal side.  

When I say that, I donít mean protecting the public by throwing everybody in jail. Should I be elected, it is important to make sure that when somebody comes in front of me, I give them the sentence that will keep them from ever coming back into the court again, if that makes sense.

Perryman: How would you describe your legal philosophy?

Olender:  Thatís a good question.  I would say Iím a protector of the public.  I protected kids against child abusers for nine years. So I am a protector, depending on what the situation is.

Perryman: How do you view diversity, particularly when a majority of the people who come through the courts are black and brown people. How will that affect your decision-making?

Olender: I wouldnít have known this when I started in juvenile, but with all the changes in the judicial system, we have been doing a lot of training and discussions on equity. Weíve had James Bell of the Hayward Burns Institute in California come in, and weíve been working with him.  So, I think itís extremely important. The law has to be blind, obviously, but I think itís essential to consider where somebody came from when youíre fashioning a correct sentence to them. 

Perryman: Reducing disparities in a system where prisons are over-represented with black and brown people for a nonviolent crime is a priority for many who work for criminal justice reform. What is your take?

Olender:  Yes, I think we have to keep working on that.  I still believe that working in juvenile is where you start the whole process. Still, I think itís really important not to just lock people up but to find different alternatives to incarceration. Once you throw people in jail, we know what the statistics are on that.  Itís just a circular motion, and they keep coming back because dads and moms arenít at home. I want to make sure is that weíre doing everything we can to keep families together.

Perryman: Why are you running for this particular seat?

Olender: I did nine years in the adult court with child abuse, and Iíve been in juvenile for thirteen.  Iím very interested in doing a different aspect of the law and excited to take some of the things that Iíve learned in juvenile court to the adult criminal and civil docket.

Perryman: Finally, then, what main points about your candidacy would you like to impress upon the minds of voters?

Olender: I have a pretty diverse background that fits me well to do the job Iím going to do.  If you talk to anybody in the law whoís dealt with me, prosecutors, other defense attorneys, or judges, Iíve always been fair and impartial. I want people to know that I will do my best to protect the public the best way I know how.

Perryman: Good luck.

Olender:  Thanks, I so appreciate it.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org


Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/01/20 10:50:20 -0400.



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