By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
After 18 years as Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court, Vallie Bowman English has thrown her hat in the ring for another elected position – judge of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. And after 18 years, Bowman English’s list of accomplishments as Clerk is both extensive and impressive.
In July 2003 when Bowman English was in the midst of her campaign for Toledo Clerk of Court – the first-time candidate set forth some rather clear-cut goals that she wanted to accomplish.
“I want to bring the technology up to date,” she told The Truth in a 2003 conversation.
Bringing the technology up to date, she said back then, would: “utilize[e] real time recording … to keep someone from being arrested for something they a have already appeared in court about; would enable “law enforcement officials … keep violent offenders from getting guns; would make it “easier for motorists to pay tickets; would “make the system more user friendly for the attorneys .. so they can retrieve information for themselves; and would prevent “instances where criminals have been allowed to walk away because the records weren’t right.”
When she assumed her current position in January 2004, Bowman English set about accomplishing those campaign goals of bringing the Clerk’s Office into the 21st century. “The reason I ran for the Clerk’s office,” she says now, “was to do all those things.”
For example, real time data entry was accomplished by ensuring a clerk would be “in every criminal and traffic courtroom,” she says. Entries are now made “as the judge or magistrate verbalizes them, not hours or days after the fact.”
Once in office, however, “I found out there was so much more to do,” she recalls. And although she had anticipated that her original laundry list should have only taken her a one six-year Clerk’s term in office, she uncovered enough challenges to keep her busy for a far lengthier time.
These are some of the other improvements Bowman English has brought to the Clerk’s office over the years:
- The scanning and imaging of court documents – making them accessible without the case file;
- Opening public access to case information – by placing case information online;
- Imaging and destruction of court files – freeing up space in the Courthouse;
- E-filing of court documents – to allow court users to submit case filings 24 hours a day;
- Electronic filing of traffic citations – enabling clerks to enter citations four times faster;
- Collection of delinquent accounts – the collection program has brought in over $29 million since 2005;
- Electronic reporting of case dispositions to Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation;
- LiveScan fingerprint and mugshot machine;
- Regional Electronic Protection Order system – streamlining the protection order process;
- Electronic daily docket screens – displaying dockets daily on LCD screens in the lobby for the public;
- A cash bond system – entered directly into the computer system;
- CourtWatch Mobile Apps – allowing users to search court case information and schedules;
- Automated employee attendance system;
- Office renovations;
- Reduction in staffing – due to increased use of technology and saving taxpayer money.
After years of such accomplishments as Clerk, Bowman English now feels that it’s time to move on. “I see a great need in Juvenile Court for someone like me,” she says. She sees a need for youthful offenders to see someone like her in a position of authority, someone who can mete out both punishment and encouragement.
“They need to hear someone to say, you can do it; you can do anything you can imagine,” she says.
Bowman English, like so many adults in the Toledo area who have borne witness to the rising serious crime rates, especially homicides, is especially concerned with the fact that offenders have gotten younger and younger and that those offenders are oblivious about the consequences of their actions.
“When I was a prosecutor, kids were shocked by the consequences when they turned 18 and became adults. In Juvenile Court, we need to do what’s best for these [younger] kids. We need to show them the consequences and that needs to coincide with compassion.”
Bowman English’s opponent in her race this fall is Judge Linda Knepp, who was appointed to fill the slot left empty in July 2021 by the retirement of Judge Connie Zemmelman.
“I have a good chance based on my experience and community involvement,” says Bowman English of the upcoming contest. Indeed, she is involved in numerous professional and community groups and activities: She is a member of The Links, Inc; on boards such as Area Office on Aging, Susan G. Komen; the past president of the Toledo Bar Association and newly appointed to the Ohio State Bar Association.
“I invest myself in so many things,” she explains. “I’m a visionary, I have great administrative skills and I am never satisfied.”
After 18 years as Clerk of Municipal Court, 18 years of transforming and modernizing the Clerk’s office, Bowman English is ready for a new challenge and, as with her current post, she will be on the bench for as long as she feels is necessary.
“I will stay as long as I’m needed – as long as I can make a difference I will stay,” she says.