Left to right: Jazmin G. Torres-Lugo, Bridget M. O'Brien, Shiela Turner McCall, Sydney Strickland Saffold, Jeff Johnson, and Michelle D. Earley. Credit: Dakotah Kennedy / Signal Cleveland

New judges will join the Cleveland Municipal Court following the Nov. 7 election.

Jeff Johnson, a former Cleveland City Council member and current Housing Court magistrate unseated Judge Mark Majer, who was appointed to Cleveland Municipal Court by Gov. Mike DeWine in February.

Bridget M. O’Brien won a four-way race with 39.7% of the vote, edging out Joanna N. Lopez Inman, Jocelyn Conwell and former Cleveland City Council Member TJ Dow.

Voters also kept two current judgesJazmin G. Torres-Lugo and Shiela Turner McCall.

Two candidates, Administrative and Presiding Judge Michelle D. Earley and Housing Court Magistrate Sydney Strickland Saffold, were elected with no opposition.

Let’s recap. What are the basics of the Cleveland Municipal Court? 

Cleveland Municipal Court handles both criminal and civil cases, including traffic court for Cleveland and Bratenahl. Municipal judges are licensed attorneys with at least six years of experience, but they do not need trial experience before becoming a judge. They also have the power to determine bail and send people to jail. Once elected, a municipal judge serves for six years. They can also officiate at wedding ceremonies.

Judge Torres-Lugo wins re-election

Torres-Lugo won her second term with 63% of the vote, according to unofficial vote total. She bested Joseph F. Russo, a former juvenile court judge and perennial judicial candidate. Elected in 2017, she was the first Latina elected to a judicial seat in Northeast Ohio. Before that, she ran her own law firm. She is from Puerto Rico and moved to Cleveland in 1990.

In 2019, she appeared on Cleveland Justice, an unscripted YouTube show run by the Cleveland Municipal Court. Catch her episode here.

O’Brien holds on in four-way race

O’Brien is the deputy court administrator for the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals. She worked for the Court of Appeals and as a housing court prosecutor. O’Brien graduated from Miami University and received her law degree from Cleveland State University.

Joanna N. Lopez Inman

Inman is a magistrate judge in Cleveland Housing Court. She previously worked as a prosecutor for six years in Cuyahoga County. She graduated from Case Western Reserve University and received her law degree from Cleveland State University.

Jocelyn Conwell

Conwell is a former assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor. She is also a part-time defense lawyer in East Cleveland. She graduated from John Adams High School, Baldwin Wallace University and Cleveland State University’s College of Law. 

TJ Dow

Dow represented Ward 7 on Cleveland City Council from 2008 to 2017.

Judge McCall wins re-election

McCall won her second term as a Cleveland Municipal Court judge. Before that, she worked with victims of domestic violence as a social worker. She graduated from Hiram College and received her law degree from Cleveland State University.

In 2019, she also appeared on Cleveland Justice. Catch her episode here.

Former Cleveland Council Member Jeff Johnson wins

Appointed as a Cleveland Housing Court magistrate in April. He previously served on Cleveland City Council and as a state senator. Johnson graduated from Collinwood High School and Kent State University. He received a master’s degree and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University.

Unopposed

Michelle D. Earley

Earley also won re-election to Cleveland Municipal Court, a position she’s held since 2009. She is an administrative judge and the presiding judge. She presides over the Domestic Violence High Risk Docket. Earley graduated from Ohio State University and received her law degree from Case Western Reserve University.

Sydney Strickland Saffold

Saffold is a magistrate in Cleveland Municipal Court. She is also the legal redress officer for the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP. Saffold graduated from the Ohio State University and received her law degree from the University of Cincinnati. 

Signal background

Election News and Resources

Service Journalism Reporter (she/her)
Dakotah is a journalist and audio producer dedicated to untangling bureaucracy and providing power (information) to the people of Cleveland. She spent 10 years on the frontlines of direct service working with youth and system-impacted communities before receiving her master's in media advocacy from Northeastern University. Dakotah is part of the Community team whose mission is to listen and amplify the issues Clevelanders care about most.