Three Democrats seek Appeals Court seat

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]




Three people have announced their intentions to seek the Democratic nomination for the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

One of those is Portsmouth Attorney Valarie K. Gerlach, who may be showing signs she wants to follow in the footsteps of her father, former mayor and city manager of Portsmouth and long time attorney Franklin T. Gerlach.

“It is something I have been thinking about for some time,” Gerlach said. “Not necessarily this position but running for office. I was always involved in something in college. I ran for office in college all the time.”

Gerlach says the Fourth District Court is a fit for her.

“It’s up my alley,” Gerlach said. “I used to clerk for a federal judge (Cincinnati) and all you do is write opinions. You would hear cases and write opinions. That was at the trial court level and not at the federal level, but what I did in that job is all that I would be doing in this other job, basically. For me it’s the most natural thing in the world.”

Gerlach is a graduate of Portsmouth High School, received a degree in psychology from the University of Cincinnati and her degree in law from Capital University.

What makes appellate courts interesting is that they are the ultimate court for many cases since the Supreme Court does not have to hear every case.

“I like the variety,” Gerlach said. “That’s what I liked about federal court. Everything was different and you learned so many different subjects. That’s what I like about my law practice too. It’s not always the same thing. You learn different things from different cases. I would like the variety of the Court of Appeals.”

Is Gerlach intimidated by having a 14 county district?

“I think the counties included in that are all rural counties,” Gerlach said. “I don’t mean that negatively. They have more in common with Scioto County than Franklin County or Hamilton County.”

Gerlach said right now she is concentrating on getting the required number of signatures on her petitions, due to be filed by Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, Paul Price, a Common Pleas Court judge in Pike County says he filed his petitions for the Fourth District Court of Appeals on Nov. 17 and is definitely on the March primary ballot.

“It has been a dream of mine for quite a while to seek this job,” Price said. “I’ve been the judge of the county court for about three years. I really enjoy that role, enjoy the aspects of it. I have been enjoying the trial work. I have been enjoying the research and the study of the law that goes into that.”

Since that court is considered a part time job, Price has also continued in his law practice.

“I think its about bringing my experience and my leadership to the table as well,” Price said. “Since I’ve been county court judge I’ve been able to increase our collections of fines and costs just by holding the offenders accountable. I have been successful at continuing to push that docket forward. I’m the only judge in charge of that docket and I think we’ve cleared in that court over 10,000 cases since I have become judge.”

Price has also, like everyone in the legal system in southern Ohio, had to deal with drug problems.

“To address that I founded the Pike County Drug Court to help offenders get off drugs and stop that cycle of folks going out breaking the law – putting them in jail – then they get out – they’re seeking drugs again so they break the law again,” Price said. “It costs the taxpayers a lot of money to house those people. So in order to try and break that continuous destructive cycle that eventually leads to their death, I started the drug court to help combat that.”

Price said he is used to dealing with a wide range of charges from murder to speeding tickets. He also has covered civil cases and small claims.

“My experience there really speaks to what I bring to the table for the court of appeals judge job,” Price said.

Price, who is in the preaching rotation at his church says he teaches a bible study and has been on three mission trips to foreign countries.

“That really informs what I do and how I operate from the bench and in my practice as well,” Price said. “I didn’t make this decision lightly to run for the court of appeals. It was a lot of prayer.”

The seat is currently held by Judge Matt McFarland of Wheelersburg, a Republican. In addition to Gerlach and Price, attorney Ruth Buckler is seeking the Democratic nomination for that office but did not respond to a message left by the Daily Times.

Another Scioto County resident, Marie Hoover, is also a member of the Fourth District Court of Appeals along with Peter B. Abele and William H. Harsha.



By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.