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Time to play the judge feud

Alex Green • Mar 6, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Rarely does a terminated employee get the opportunity to oust her former employer.

And yet, this is where Lorrain Croy may find herself in November, when she vies for a spot as Ottawa County Common Pleas Court judge.   


She’ll face off against incumbent Judge Bruce Winters, who fired her in 2012 from her position as court magistrate. 


Winters, whose term will end in December, announced his re-election bid last week. It was a surprising move to those who thought he would not seek re-election.


Perhaps more surprising: Winters, a Democrat, must run as an Independent, since state Rep. Chris Redfern, D- Catawba Island, endorsed Croy for the judgeship.


While there’s no disputing which candidate Redfern has endorsed, he and Winters continue to disagree on how Redfern came to support Croy. 


Redfern helped Winters win his 2008 election.


“I fired (Redfern’s) close friend,” Winters said of Croy. “Redfern said he would not support me in the primary. He said through a third party he would use the resources of the Democratic Party against me.”


That said, Winters figured there was no use in running as a Democrat.


Redfern said he disagrees with the decision to fire Croy, but even so, it has little to do with endorsing her.


Redfern said his endorsement of Croy is a reflection of her abilities and experience.


”I think (Croy) would make a great judge with her understanding of criminal and civil law,” Redfern said. “Do I agree with (Winters’ firing of Croy)? No, I don’t. Croy has been an asset to the families I’ve represented in Ottawa County since my days as county commissioner.”


The details of Croy’s firing two years ago remain a mystery, and Winters declined shed light on the issue.


Croy said she’s unsure exactly why she was fired. ”To this day, I don’t fully understand,” she said.


Winters cited Croy’s personnel file, which states she was fired for committing an act of dishonesty to the court and for not working in the best interest of the court.

Winters said he stands by his decision.


”Being a judge doesn’t mean decisions are always easy,” he said.


His candidacy as an Independent is an obstacle he’ll have to overcome to win re-election. Countless Ottawa County public officials endorsed Croy as speculation swirled that Winters would not seek re-election, leaving few to support the incumbent.


For his part, Redfern said his support of Croy was not dependent on his alleged feud with Winters.


”(Croy) has embraced the philosophies of the Democratic Party,” Redfern said. “I support her as a Democrat.”

Croy’s early campaign has touted her experience and the respect local leaders have for her, and she has not sharpened her political knife in hopes of exacting revenge, she said.


”What matters are the families in Ottawa County,” Croy said. “I have the temperament, experience and respect of others. More than 30 officials, Republican and Democrat, have endorsed me.”


Redfern also commended Croy’s temperament, a virtue likely to come in handy over the next eight months.


Croy said she was surprised to learn of Winters’ re-election bid, particularly his decision to run as an Independent.


”I was expecting a primary,” she said.

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