EAST LIVERPOOL - Municipal Court Judge Melissa Byers-Emmerling announced Tuesday her candidacy for re-election to the seat she has held for 24 years.
The first woman elected judge in Columbiana County, Byers-Emmerling is completing her fifth term in office.
Among her accomplishments during her years on the bench, Byers-Emmerling said she was one of the first municipal court judges in Ohio to create an Intensive Supervised Probation Program in 1996, receiving state grants exceeding more than $1.3 million over the past 18 years to fully fund the program.
The ISP Program and its director have won awards for best program and director from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Byers-Emmerling said that, since she handles serious traffic and criminal cases in her court, the ISP Program allows her to closely monitor defendants once they are released from jail and also gives them guidance toward becoming law-abiding citizens.
The program ensures serious offenders complete drug/alcohol, mental health or anger management counseling; conducts random drug testing; collects restitution for victims; and monitors defendants by unannounced searches of their homes for illegal activity.
The program also assures that mentally ill defendants take their medications and attend court-ordered counseling.
Byers-Emmerling also created a community service program for non-violent offenders which has provided more than 124,000 hours of free work to the community. The program is funded by fees assessed to defendants.
The DRIVE program was also started by Byers-Emmerling, allowed defendants who have suspended driver's licenses to get back on the road, licensed and insured. Since 2009, 304 unlicensed and under-suspension drivers graduated from the program with both a valid license and insurance.
East Liverpool Municipal Court is operated by defendants' court costs, according to Byers-Emmerling, who said defendants, not taxpayers, pay for the court's part-time employee salaries, all equipment, computers and maintenance agreements, furniture, office supplies, court building upgrades, personnel training and even the heating and cooling of the third floor of City Hall.
Byers-Emmerling was the first judge in Columbiana County to be elected president of a judicial association, and as president, she planned and executed numerous judicial education seminars, reviewed and proposed legislation, met with the Ohio Supreme Court chief justice regarding judicial concerns and served on the Ohio Judicial Conference Executive Board.
The Ohio Supreme Court has chosen Byers-Emmerling for various commissions, including the Ohio Futures Commission, as a mentor judge to new judges and to attend the National Judicial College on a state scholarship.
She has taught numerous legal courses to judges, attorneys and college and high school students.
Locally, Byers-Emmerling is a member of the Columbiana County Bar Association, Calcutta Rotary and is past president and a member of the Quota Club. She serves as coach for Beaver Local's Mock Trial, which has competed at the state level.
A 1974 Wellsville High School graduate, Byers-Emmerling received her bachelor's degree from Miami University of Ohio and is a graduate of the University of Akron Law School, where she served as assistant editor-in-chief of the Akron Law Review.
While in law school, she received numerous awards for academic accomplishment, including the Dean's Award for Outstanding Legal Scholar and Student Leader by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Byers-Emmerling is the daughter of the late Ed and Dorothy Byers and she her husband, attorney Fred Emmerling, have a son, Bo, a junior at his mother's alma mater at Miami University of Ohio.