Saunders campaign

Zachary Saunders, an Athens County assistant prosecutor, is seen announcing his campaign for judge of the Juvenile/Probate Court as supporters look on.

Note: This story appears in the Sunday, Nov. 24 newspaper on Page A3. 

An assistant county prosecutor is looking to make the jump from trying cases to hearing them.

Zachary Saunders recently announced his candidacy for judge of the Athens County Juvenile/Probate Court. He will campaign as a Democrat.

Saunders, an Ohio University graduate, has worked for the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office since 2015. He was hired then to handle primarily civil and juvenile court cases.

He has previous experience as a criminal defense attorney in Athens and in Licking County. He described having handled cases involving abuse and neglect, serving at times as a guardian ad litem — which is someone appointed to represent and advocate for children in court when needed. In Athens, he worked at the Mollica, Gall, Sloan and Sillery firm and said he handled cases there involving custody matters in Juvenile Court.

Saunders said his experience working in various roles involving the Juvenile Court makes him a qualified candidate for the role.

The judge also handles Probate Court cases, which deal with legal topics such as estates and adoptions.

These judges serve six-year terms. Incumbent Judge Robert Stewart is unable to run for re-election due to Ohio law mandating an age limit for elected judges.

Saunders said it is “sad” this law prevents Stewart from continuing to serve the community, but that he hopes to have the chance to follow in the judge’s footsteps.

Saunders announced his candidacy in front of the Athens County Courthouse on Wednesday, with many friends and supporters present — including Prosecutor Keller Blackburn and the three Athens County Commissioners.

Saunders said working to protect kids is a passion of his. He said one goal as judge would be to prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult offenders.

Serving as a judge would fulfill a longtime dream, he said.

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