By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.
– Justice Sonia Sotomayor
A multitude of research has confirmed long-standing criticism of the issue of bias in judicial decision-making. Black and Latinx individuals are more likely to be found guilty, imprisoned and receive longer sentences than whites. In employment discrimination and other race bias cases, it is highly unusual for Black and socially disadvantaged plaintiffs to prevail in claims or disputes with corporate and institutional entities.
Yet, less than 25 percent of voters who go to the polls cast a vote in judicial contests. Moreover, nearly 80 percent of voters know nothing about the judicial candidates on the ballot.
Furthermore, unlike other political districts, Lucas County does not have a known Judicial Performance Review structure to assess local judges. Franklin County is one of several counties that recommend judges be elected or voted out based on Judicial Performance and Judicial Candidate Preference Polls. These surveys are conducted by a panel of overseers and selected lawyers who have tried cases in local courts.
Earl Murry is an Administrative Consultant working with law firms to assist individuals who have alleged discrimination by their employer. Murry has filed discrimination charges against the University of Toledo, the City of Toledo, and other institutions on behalf of employees for racial and gender discrimination and a hostile working environment.
I spoke with Murry about his work and judicial candidate preferences regarding our upcoming primary elections.
Perryman: Please tell our readers about your journey.
Murry: I was born in Detroit, Michigan, and my parents moved to Columbus. I was raised largely in Columbus.
Perryman: Your educational experience?
Murry: I attended public school, went to Columbus East High School, and played football, basketball and track. I got my bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Ohio State University with a dual major in psychology and education.
Perryman: How about employment experience?
Murry: I was a laborer for Union Local 423, an assistant director for the State of Ohio Juvenile Correctional Institute, and taught in Columbus Schools out of college. I was then Corporate Director – Employee Relations with the Anchor Hocking Corporation. Later I served as Executive Director of the Columbus Municipal Civil Service Commission before moving to Dayton, where I was the Assistant Superintendent for Dayton Public Schools.
Perryman: How did you arrive in Toledo?
Murry: Joe Rutherford, a popular and well-known Toledo lobbyist from Toledo, contacted University of Toledo president Frank Horton. The latter was looking to hire Blacks at UT for tenured track professors. I was recommended and invited to come to Toledo to interview. I did and was hired. I had only been there six weeks when I sued the university for refusing to keep records and pay employees their sick time. I won the suit, was eventually promoted to professor, and retired in 2013 as professor emeritus.
Perryman: You also experienced injustice when you forewent a vice president position at Ball Brothers in Muncie, Indiana, to remain at Anchor Hocking. Have those experiences created the anger to fuel your advocacy work?
Murry: Angry is not a good word. I had resigned to take the job at Ball Brothers, but Roger Hetzel, president of Anchor Hocking, one of the most decent men I’ve ever met, asked me not to leave and that I would be promoted. I then turned down Ball Brothers, but Hetzel soon died, and his successor told me that Anchor Hocking wasn’t yet ready to have a Black vice president. I was so heartbroken I can’t describe it, but stayed and continued to work until I got in my vested time and then just quit.
Perryman: Please talk about some of the community activities and discrimination claims you have been involved in.
Murry: I’ve represented so many people internally at the University of Toledo and won them all. Perhaps a dozen people before the Civil Rights Commission or the State Personnel Board of Review.
At the City of Toledo, the cases range from employment discrimination to unfair disciplinary action to the fire department. The same things – wrongful disciplinary action, failure to hire, and failure to promote. I have several individuals at the fire department who sued for wrongful discrimination because Toledo didn’t want very many blacks in the department.
Perryman: Unfair labor practice is your specialty?
Murry: Yes. My specialty is Civil Rights laws, collective bargaining and negotiations. I know it to be a science, and that’s what I learned from Anchor Hocking in the private sector because there used not to be any public sector laws. The public sector only had the OCSEA, the Ohio Civil Service Employee Association.
Perryman: You learned quite a bit from working at the Civil Rights Division in Columbus?
Murry: I know civil service and rewrote and upgraded the municipal civil service rules here in Toledo. Phil Hawkey, then city manager, asked me if I would redo and update Toledo’s municipal civil service rules. Hawkey used to be the city manager in Dayton when I was there. So, when I came to Toledo, he was having problems with the civil service commission. So, he asked me to help update the civil service rules with Peg Wallace regarding testing and other things.
Perryman: Certainly, those experiences helped shape you and contributed to your zeal in this work. But let’s shift and talk about judicial evaluation. What is helpful to voters in making judicial choices?
Murry: That we make sure, and I’m going to say this, and I don’t want it to come out wrong. When we vote for a judge, we shouldn’t vote for a candidate because we like the person. We should vote for a candidate whether that candidate has good credentials in terms of representation. We should vote for a candidate who has a passion for the law and whether the law treats individuals correctly. We have a lot of lawyers who know that that is not so, who are judges. Instead, candidates will say, ‘well, I was an assistant prosecutor.’ When you are in a prosecutorial situation, you have a mindset that everybody is guilty, and it’s your job to obtain convictions. Your job is not to exonerate them. Your job is to prove that they’re guilty. When African Americans come up against a business establishment or an employer, judges’ mindset is that this person brings baggage because employers are good people. So, 97 percent of Toledo’s judges come from the prosecutor’s office with a prosecutorial perspective.
And here’s the other thing, the judges in Toledo significantly, and I can tell you almost to a science, all went to the University of Toledo.
Perryman: So, what are the implications?
Murry: That means that judges don’t want to bring any action against their alma mater for an African American who brings very little if anything other than they’ve been wronged. There are more than 20 current discrimination charges against the University of Toledo. I know because I’m their administrative representative. These are human resource directors and vice presidents. These include a director of collective bargaining, and employees serving 21 years as a grant writer who was replaced by whites who didn’t have anything. Over 20 Black people under President Postel have lost their jobs and filed discrimination complaints. I’ve done all the administrative work on them.
So far, they all have received probable cause. The Civil Rights Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have told the accused, ‘you discriminated against these people and violated the law.’ That’s what their cases are based on, violation of the law. They then have a right to file a suit in state or federal court. However, when they file the claim in state court, they get people like Lori Olender and Linda Jennings, judges with a bias towards Black people. So, Toledo doesn’t have any checks and balances against these bad judges.
Perryman: How about Christine Mayle for Judge of the Sixth District Court of Appeals?
Murry: Christine Mayle is one of the best judges. She’s a Republican, but she has ruled favorably for Blacks and others. Mayle has made some hallmark decisions favorable for Blacks.
Perryman: Democrat Mark Pietrykowski will also run against Republican Charles Sulek in the primary election.
Murry: What has Mark Pietrykowski done for Black folks when or since he left being a commissioner? What have you ever known he’s done publicly or even seen in the Black community?
Perryman: Have we seen Charles Sulek in the community?
Murry: No. Mark Pietrykowski has been in office so long he’s just stuck in that position. Unless you can prove that you have done something beneficial to African Americans in this community, I’d rather take a new racist and find bad things about him later than keep endorsing one that has no track record of doing anything.
Perryman: Judge Dean Mandros for Lucas County Court of Common Pleas?
Murry: I wouldn’t vote for Dean Mandros for anything. He comes out of the prosecutor’s office, and he still supports people with that same mindset.
Perryman: Another Common Pleas Court candidate is Michael Goulding, a Republican with no Democratic challenger. Your comment?
Murry: Goulding is a very good person. Good in the sense that he, in my opinion, carefully weighs the evidence and will do the right thing based on the evidence.
Perryman: Lori Olander, Democrat versus Republican Meira Zucker?
Murry: I wouldn’t vote for Lori Olander for anything. I will publicly challenge her by telling Black folks about her background. She hasn’t done anything. She filled an unexpired term, and she should not be elected.
Perryman: Lindsay Navarre versus no Republican challenger?
Murry: Lindsay Navarre has name recognition but came out of the prosecutor’s office. What do you know Lindsay Navarre has ever done in the Black community other than being an assistant prosecutor and her father, Mike Navarre? But, again, she hasn’t done anything good, and she hasn’t ruled anything favorably for Blacks. I know. I keep up with this stuff.
Perryman: Eric Marks, a Republican, was appointed by Governor DeWine to replace Judge Myron Duhart but also has no Democratic competition?
Murry: I don’t know him.
Perryman: Vallie Bowman English versus Linda Knepp? Do you know Linda Knepp?
Murry: I know Linda Knepp. She replaced Judge Zemmelman, who retired. Zemmelman was decent and formerly in the law office with John Coble, who was exceptionally decent. Vallie Bowman English came out of the prosecutor’s office. Do I need to say more?
Perryman: Certainly, Bowman-English is in the Black community every day and is a person of extraordinary character.
Murry: I know, and I’m not opposed to her, not at all. I don’t have anything bad to say about her.
Perryman: Do you have any final recommendations?
Murry: If anything, our community needs to be able to evaluate these judges. We should complete a detailed public dossier on each candidate to help voters assess their backgrounds and performance in the courtroom. We need to know whether their decisions are fair or discriminatory.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org