Confident Passalacqua takes on veteran judge Daniel Gaul
“A little geared up from trial, the last thing I need is a cup of coffee," sighed Edele Passalacqua. The Italian-American woman wearing a black pantsuit drew closer, her hair slightly tousled, her head crowned with pushed-up eyeglasses. Without much arm-twisting, the 23-year veteran trial attorney was convinced to take time out of her busy schedule to enjoy a cup of joe and talk to a student reporter about her campaign.
With a confident but firm hand shake; Passalacqua introduced herself, grabbed her coffee and politely asked if we could sit outside so she could enjoy a cigarette. There was a chilly October lake breeze and light rain fell from the sky as Passalacqua got her nicotine fix outside of Starbucks on West Sixth Street. She vowed she was going to quit once the election is over, but not before.
A newly established Republican, explained that she switched parties due to the negative publicity surrounding Democrats in Cuyahoga County after the corruption scandal. In the upcoming November election, Passalacqua is running for judge in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
“There is no question that I chose the hardest race in all of them, no question about it,” she confided. Judge Daniel Gaul is Passalacqua’s opposition. He has been on the bench for 23 years, and has never been opposed in three previous elections. Originally, Gaul was appointed by Gov. Richard Celeste in 1990. In 1992, he ran for the seat, which he won and has held for three consecutive six-year terms.
On Judge4Yourself.com, a website run by four local bar associations that evaluate judicial candidates, Gaul earns a score of 3.5 out of a possible 4, while Passalacqua earns a 2.5. But Passalacqua is not without allies; she has a long list of endorsements on her website at passalacqua4judge.org
So why is Passalacqua taking on this formidable opponent? Over the 23-year period under Gaul, she said, the checks and balances appear to have become obscured. She says the rule of law tends to get a bit “muddled along the way” and there’s a sense of favoritism and partiality that irks her.
Her judicial philosophy stresses impartiality. “It is imperative that judges maintain the appearance of impartiality regarding all issues and all matters that are, or may be, before the court.” To completely avoid the appearance of bias, Passalacqua says judges should not be elected but rather, appointed by a nonpartisan committee using a merit system.
A “hot button issue” in this race is to develop strategies for alternative sentencing. According to Passalacqua, “I have a lot of good ideas on how to sentence more creatively.” She explains that sentences should set our offenders up for success, and this does not necessarily mean putting them behind bars. Once an offender’s record is marked with a felony, he or she will have a difficult time they have a difficult time finding a home and a job.
“It just perpetuates the vicious cycle,” since a life of crime appears to many ex-offenders as an only option, said Passalacqua.
Passalacqua’s said the support of the community can uplift an individual. Encouraging that support is something she wants to do in Cuyahoga County. “Church communities are a great way to embrace a person who is in need. It is easy to get support,” she said.
She enjoys a cigarette and her cup of coffee, which helps her wind down. Once she has her moment of refreshment, Passalacqua is back to work, serving clients and seeking justice, not only in this election season, she hopes, but for many to come.
Alexis Gallo is a communication student at John Carroll University.