Former Solon Councilman Richard A. Bell is likely to run for Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge in 2020, he said last week.
Mr. Bell, 56, an assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor and Chief of the Special Investigations Division, said he will make his final decision by next month, which is the start of filing with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. The deadline for filing is in December, and there could be a primary in March.
A bid for the judicial seat represents a “natural progression,” from his current career to the next, he explained.
“I’ve had 29 years as a prosecutor, and I’ve helped many people,” he said. “You go in front of judges, and you realize that part of being a judge is resolving conflict.
“I feel that is what I have been trained to do overall,” he said.
If elected for the six-year term for judge in the General Division of the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas next year, it would represent a culmination of his career, Mr. Bell said.
“I’ve done and learned what I can in this current position, and I’m ready to take on a bigger challenge.”
Mr. Bell would be running as a registered Democrat and has served as ward leader for the City of Solon’s Democratic Party from 2006-2012.
A graduate of Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Mr. Bell explained why he is considering this new role for the first time in that he has had a long career at the prosecutor’s office, solving cold cases with DNA as director of the Cold Case Unit as well as heading the Human Trafficking Unit and Internet Crimes Against Children division.
“I like keeping the community safe,” he said, “but I also like being a part of criminal justice reform.” To that end, Mr. Bell helped implement open discovery in the prosecutor’s office, which gives prosecutors’ full files to defense attorneys as well as worked to restructure the county office into community regions for better police and resident contact.
He has also worked in the area of reform of how priest abuse cases are reported and is an advocate for Bail Reform and Fugitive Safe Surrender with the U.S. Marshall’s office.
Mr. Bell has tested and prosecuted forgotten rape kits stored in evidence lockers for years and has tried high-profile cases in Cuyahoga County. Those include the Western Reserve Shooter, solving the Gloria Pointer murder, a cold case, and the Michael Brelo murder case. In total, he has prosecuted more than 100 trials.
“As a judge, I would know the law and the evidence rules and preside over cases fairly and impartially,” he said. “And I would get to continue to be involved in justice reforms.”
He said his involvement with many capital cases would distinguish him from other candidates.
“I can preside over contentious cases,” Mr. Bell said. “If you haven’t picked a death penalty jury, you can’t be expected to preside over those cases.”
Mr. Bell said his work on Solon City Council, where he represented Ward 1 from 2010-2015, has also prepared him for the judicial seat and helped define his style of leadership.
“There were a few things I wanted to try to make sure we did on council and one was to listen to every resident and give them the opportunity to speak,” Mr. Bell said. The second was to be transparent in all government decisions.
“Lastly, I worked to maintain a good temperament on council to work collaboratively,” he said. “As a judge, I want to do the same as I did on council.”
Mayor Edward H. Kraus said he has known Mr. Bell for 30 years, both working in the prosecutor’s office and on City Council.
“Frankly, in all my years, I don’t know if I have found anybody that has more integrity, character, compassion and sincere devotion to public service than Rick,” Mayor Kraus said.
As a council member, Mr. Bell had to “switch gears” from his day job, Mayor Kraus said, and did just that, serving as a strong advocate for his constituents and the city as a whole.
“Rick is someone who loves people and to help people,” Mayor Kraus said. He was also excellent at solving conflicts, the mayor continued, helping those who took extreme sides on issues come to a common ground.
Mr. Bell stepped down from the council seat due to Former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s mandate that as prosecutor, the Solon resident could not also hold a public office.
A city resident since 1990, Mr. Bell said he has already filed his Designation of Treasurer form which allows a bank account to be prepared and money to be raised beginning next month. His daughter Rachel Bell, 27, a speech pathologist, is serving as his campaign treasurer.
Mr. Bell and his wife, Dr. Andrea Bell, have four children.
Among his career accolades, Mr. Bell was twice nominated for Prosecutor of the Year for the State of Ohio, both by Democratic politician, the late U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason and has received U.S. Department of Justice Awards from the FBI.