Muni judge to step down

Judge Christ Amato

LISBON –Columbiana County Municipal Court Judge Charles “Chris” Amato is stepping down after nearly three years on the job.

Amato announced Monday that an illness involving a family member will require he take off two to three months to help provide care. Rather than take a leave of absence, he will resign effective Feb. 2.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the taxpayers of the county to pay me while I’m off the bench for two to three months. That’s not how I was raised,” Amato said, adding to do so would also place an unfair burden on his colleague, Municipal Court Judge Mark Frost.

Amato was appointed in February 2015 by Gov. John Kasich to replace Municipal Court Judge Carol Robb after she was elected to the Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals. He was to call the governor’s office and the Ohio Supreme Court Monday to notify them of his decision.

Like Robb, Amato is a Republican, so the county GOP will be tasked with submitting a list of candidates for Kasich to choose from. In 2015, the county Republican Party submitted three names: Amato, county domestic relations magistrate J. Bradley Allison and Megan (Forsythe) Bickerton, an assistant county prosecutor.

County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson said the GOP central and executive committee will follow the same process as before. “The governor’s office will look to the party for a recommendation and typically we send them two to three names, along with a recommendation,” he said

Johnson said the governor’s office will also conduct its own interviews.

While Amato’s stint as judge was short, he enjoyed the experience. “It has been an honor and pleasure to serve the people of this county and I will cherish these memories forever,” he said in a news release. “I was very fortunate to be blessed with an exceptional bailiff, great staff, a superior clerk’s office and to have a mentor in Judge Mark Frost.”

Amato believes his biggest contribution was establishing a drug court, which gives non-violent drug offenders the chance at treatment and rehabilitation over jail time, and he hopes the judges will continue and expand the program.

He also wanted to give “special thanks” to Kasich, Johnson, Salem businessman Bob Sebo, county Commissioner Mike Halleck and county Prosecutor Robert Herron.

The 54-year-old Amato intends to eventually return to private practice at the Amato Law Firm in Wellsville and has not ruled out another run for elected office some day. “Sure, that’s possible,” he said.