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First Latino judge appointed since Judge Joseph Flores’ death  

By La Prensa Staff

TOLEDO: When Alfonso J. “Jess” González of Maumee took the oath of judicial office on Friday, May 3, 2019, at 3PM, in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Room #5, he left the distinction of becoming the first Latino to sit on the bench in a Lucas County courtroom in well over a decade. He also will be only the second Latino judge in county history.

“It’s a blessing and an honor to be considered by the governor for this role,” he said.

Magistrate González described the appointment and its whirlwind aftermath as “exhilarating and daunting,” especially considering he’ll have to run for public office for the first-time next year to retain the seat during a presidential election year.

González is replacing Judge Gene Zmuda, who was elected to the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals. He already had a court docket scheduled the same day he was sworn in as a judge, in front of his fellow judges, family, friends, and associates.

Domestic Relations Judge David Lewandowski administered the oath, with Mary Jane Flores holding the bible. The new Lucas County Common Pleas judge [General Division] used to clerk for Judge Lewandowski and then he became a magistrate. Mrs. Flores is the widow of Judge Joseph Flores, the first Latino on the bench in Lucas County [Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division].   

He admitted he will have to get up to speed quickly on criminal law, an area he has not touched in several years—but one he’ll face most often from the bench, “whether it’s a murder case or some other felony.”

“It’s going to be a challenge. I welcome the challenge,” he said. “I especially welcome the weight, as a Hispanic, of something that rarely happens.”

The distinction of becoming just the second Latino judge in Lucas County history is not lost on González. He recently went through an online roster listing all of Ohio’s current judges at every level—all 721 of them—and only came up with three Latino-sounding surnames.

“When you talk about minority underrepresentation in professional fields, that’s the very definition of it” he said. “I’m not saying they should put people in positions just because of the color of their skin. There’s got to be qualified folks out there that are just not getting a shot. That just makes it more pleasurable for me to get the appointment, because it is so rare.”

González also knows it has been nearly two decades since his Latino predecessor last served on the bench. Judge Joseph Flores was first elected to a seat on the Toledo Municipal Court bench and moved to Lucas County Juvenile Court about a decade later. He died in October of 2003 at age 69, after a year-long battle with liver cancer.  

Both González and Flores are the sons of Mexican immigrants who trace their roots to migrant farm work. Beloved by the entire community, the late judge still casts a long shadow in both the legal and Latino community.

“I actually welcome the challenge of feeling that weight. I love it. It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve had folks communicate to me that they’re proud there’s a Hispanic on the bench and long overdue. When he was on the bench, I didn’t know a single Democrat or Republican who didn’t like the man. Everybody loved him. I think he transcended politics. If I can be half the judge he was, I’ll consider myself a success.”

González was previously in private practice as an attorney when he was sworn in as a magistrate. He spent 12 of his 15-year law career as a lawyer, much of that handling family law and juvenile court cases. The other time he spent as a staff attorney for Judge Lewandowski. He also spent a year as an attorney at Sandusky County Job and Family Services.

The Findlay native is one of five siblings, the son of Mexican-American migrant farmworkers who met in Laredo, Texas and relocated to Northwest Ohio. His father later worked at Cooper Tire as a millwright for more than 30 years. His mom worked as a surgical assistant for a time, but spent most of her life as a homemaker.

González received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and masters of public administration from Bowling Green State University. He earned a law degree from the University of Toledo.

González, 50, has lived in Lucas County since 2001. He is married and has a 14-year old daughter. The former guardian ad litem will see a big change in his courtroom role when he becomes a county judge—impartiality. He openly admits he would advocate for solutions that best served the interests of children as a magistrate, especially during nasty custody battles and contentious divorce proceedings.

“I want to be patient and understanding. That’s a big part to being an impartial judge,” he said, pointing out he’d be adopting a similar style to the rest of the judges in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Gary Cook was the master of ceremonies; Father Juan Francisco Molina of SS. Peter and Paul Parish gave the invocation. At the reception that followed, La Paloma furnished the pastries.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/08/19 05:19:35 -0700.

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