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Rock-n-Roller, public defender, activist, and Cleveland sports fan wins TMC judge’s race by wide margin


By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


TOLEDO: When she’s not wailing into a microphone or strumming her guitar or organizing one of the region’s biggest fundraisers, Nicole Khoury is defending clients in court. That unique combination helped her win a seat on the Toledo Municipal Court [TMC] bench during the Nov. 7, 2017 general election.


On that date, Ms. Khoury defeated former reporter and fellow attorney Dale Emch and attorney Hank John Schaefer for municipal court judge by a wide margin, 23,711 to 18, 683 (Mr. Emch) and 2,783 (Mr. Schaefer) [unofficial results].


In the other contested Toledo Municipal Court judgeship race, Joe Howe defeated Jim Anderson by 144 votes [20, 629 to 20, 485, unofficial results].  The other two TMC judgeship races were uncontested [incumbent Michelle A. Wagner received 33,628 votes and incumbent Timothy C. Kuhlman received 31,724 votes, unofficial results].


Ms. Khoury—a first-time political candidate—is a prominent local defense attorney and public defender who frequently has represented clients in the court where she will now preside.

Nicole Khoury

Dale Emch, Byron Winn, Judge Wagner

“Overwhelmed, emotional, relieved, excited, scared” are the adjectives she used to describe her feelings following her judicial victory. She likened the margin of victory to passing the bar exam, stating “you don’t really care unless you pass.” Her confidence rose when the early voting numbers came in and she wasn’t losing by much. She took a commanding lead once the precincts began reporting.


“We ran such a beautifully clean, non-political campaign. People keep asking us how we did it,” she said. “The fact is, we had nobody who’s ever done this before, working together. I think that’s what we needed in this day and age and time. I think people are tired of all the politics and the crap. We’ve run this no different than I’ve run anything else in my life, like a charity event. We got good people together that believed in me and believed in my ability to do the job.”


Ms. Khoury stated her belief to La Prensa that her candidacy drew people to a judicial race who don’t normally bother to vote for who sits on the bench. She estimated her TMC race drew thousands more votes than the one for TMC housing court [Howe vs. Anderson].


“The music community and all of their people and people who’ve come up to me and said they’ve seen the band or the charity people—folks who have never voted for judge before came out and voted,” she said. “The very first thing I said when I decided to run was I wanted to bring attention to a judicial campaign because nobody cares.”


Ms. Khoury explained that she believes her views are reflective of the community—many conservative, but some socially progressive. While she attended the conservative Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, she believes people just “want to get along and live their lives and do charitable things because we want to and not because we have to.”


Public Defender for 16 years


Ms. Khoury spent 16 years at the public defender’s office in Lucas County. She also has practiced in Maumee and Sylvania municipal courts, as well as Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where felony cases are lodged.


“I’ve done this for a really long time. I’ve worked in these courts since before I became an attorney because I was an intern there. Municipal court is something that’s really important to me,” she said in a pre-election radio interview. “That is a court for people like us. It’s a place where any one of us can find ourselves at any time. In that amount of time, I’ve been able to affect and help thousands and thousands of people. Once in a while you get these great success stories and that means something to me.”


Rock-n-Roller and community activist


Ms. Khoury is the lead singer and guitarist for Arctic Clam, a rock cover band that has gained a popular following on the Toledo nightclub and special event scene over the past several years. Arctic Clam has opened the show at concert fundraisers for recording artists Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Skid Row, Rusted Root, John Waite, Berlin, and George Clinton and Parliament.


Ms. Khoury is the organizer and driving force behind the annual music fundraiser—a day-long fundraiser held every March to benefit the nonprofit group Project iAm. Ms. Khoury cofounded the organization—Acoustics for Autism—to fund the needs of families with an autistic child.


“My range of support is so vast and so diverse and that’s what’s important to me,” she said. “It’s important to me to go in as a judicial candidate or a judge just for one group and try to appeal to them. I want to appeal to everybody that I’m fair, I’m impartial, I’m independent and I think outside of the box. I don’t fit myself within one.”


Thoughts on drug courts


Lucas County Common Pleas Court currently operates a drug court as a last-ditch effort to keep addicts from serving a long prison sentence, usually for committing major crimes to feed their habit. Toledo Municipal Court currently has no such opportunity for low-level offenders.


“My philosophy is that I don’t believe municipal court is the place for a drug court, but there are tools that you can use that accomplishes a similar thing,” she said.


Ms. Khoury is proposing some solutions to the “opioid epidemic” and a related explosion of misdemeanor cases in municipal court similar to what she says have been working in courtrooms in Sylvania and Maumee that she described as “a little bit different and a little more creative.”


“Heroin and the opiates don’t have time to wait for one (a drug court) to get established,” she said. “I’ve got ideas that makes it more hands-on as a pseudo-type of drug court, but that doesn’t require and doesn’t need special funding. It just is a matter of the judge doing it. I work with these people every day and I know that they’re not going ‘to get clean’ unless they are ready ‘to get clean’ and they want ‘to get clean.’”


The judge-elect believes that placing the responsibility on the defendant to want ‘to get clean’ is what’s important. If family members or the court intervenes, as a rule, an addicted defendant will do what’s necessary or required, but quickly relapse time and again. She stated defendants “go through the motions to stay out of jail.” Ms. Khoury stated a defendant must want to beat an addiction before anything lasting will take place.


“An addict isn’t going to get clean unless they want to. I’ve been with far too many of them and tried to help too many of them,” she said. “It’s finally about them getting the mindset that they’re ready to do it. That’s had a lot of really good success stories. You have to make it their decision.”


Ms. Khoury is proposing for a judge to issue, for example, a 90-day jail sentence to begin at a later date. Defendants would then have the opportunity to prove they’ve lived up to promises made at a sentencing hearing ‘to get their act together’—drug screenings, rehab, getting a job—to avoid going behind bars. A judge could then reconsider that sentence at an informal proceeding.


“What I want to do is give, put a little more pressure on them to want to do it by giving them a jail sentence,” she explained. “But my office will be open this week and if you want to show me you’ve done all the things you said standing up at sentencing about wanting to get clean. If you can show me and prove that to me, we’ll re-evaluate your sentence. You’re making them responsible for wanting to get clean. The problem now is we wait until they violate probation before it ever comes back in front of a judge.”


Ms. Khoury, 40, explained she has very traditional views on how a courtroom should operate. But creative solutions to problems and sentencing can give defendants a chance to get their lives back in order long-term so they don’t become “frequent fliers” before the court.


“Their case can’t get any worse. They’ve got a date already to go to jail. But it gives a defendant to the chance to come back and show they’re doing well,” she said. “People look at me and don’t picture a judge. I’m young. But what people don’t understand is I love the law. I love my job. I’m very good at it. I want to make sure attorneys are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, make sure defendants are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.


“I want to sentence people in ways that keep them working, keep the community safe, and help get people rehabilitated—whether that’s drugs, mental health, domestic violence counseling or even anger management. We’ve got to get these cycles broken. (As a public defender) I’ve heard every excuse. I’ve seen every failure. I’ve seen every success. I can bring that knowledge to the bench with me.”


An unapologetic Cleveland sports fan, Ms. Khoury celebrated her election win by attending the Browns-Lions game in Detroit, where she immediately jumped on an airplane to take a cruise. [Detroit won, 38 to 24.]


Judge-elect Nicole Khoury plans on having a swearing-in ceremony between Christmas and New Year’s Day so her family can be in attendance. Her first day on the bench will be Jan. 3, 2018.


On the Internet:  http://acousticsforautism.com/






Copyright © 1989 to 2017 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/14/17 19:54:48 -0800.




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