YOUNGSTOWN — Lawyer Mark Hanni has practiced law for nearly two decades. His father, Don L. Hanni Jr., was also a lawyer, and for years wielded political influence as leader of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.
Don’s son Mark, however, is a Republican, and this fall he is running for a seat on the Court of Appeals for the 7th District of Ohio, which serves Mahoning and seven other eastern Ohio counties. . Twice before, Hanni unsuccessfully ran for a seat on this ground.
On Nov. 8, Hanni challenges one of the panel’s four incumbent judges — Democrat Gene Donofrio — to a six-year term that begins Feb. 9, 2023.
Each appeal case is heard by a panel of three judges sitting in a courtroom in downtown Youngstown. One of the judges is randomly assigned to write a decision after reviewing the case file and briefs filed in the case. The decision, once rendered, can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Donofrio, 69, joined the 7th District Court in February 1993. After graduating from Ursuline High School in 1971, he received his bachelor’s degree in 1975 from Youngstown State University. He then continued his studies at the University of Akron Law School, where Judge received his law degree in 1978.
After his admission to the Ohio bar, Donofrio practiced law for over 14 years. He also served as an assistant district attorney for the city of Youngstown as well as Mahoning County. Donofrio also served as an attorney to the Mahoning County Treasurer and also an Ohio Assistant Attorney General.
While on the appellate bench, Donofrio filed by assignment to the Supreme Court of Ohio. He is also a former Chief Justice of the Ohio Courts of Appeals Judges Association. He was instrumental in acquiring resources and overseeing the 2005 construction of the $3.4 million courthouse in downtown Youngstown.
In a new mandate, Donofrio said he plans to continue modernizing the court through up-to-date technology, computerization and maintenance of the courthouse.
During his previous terms, Donofrio also implemented the Offsite Hearing Program at high schools in the district and launched the 7th District Law Clerk Program. If re-elected, Donofrio said he plans to continue his outreach to educate the public about the justice system.
“I still enjoy my work in the field very much and I feel that I have become good at it. I work very well with my colleagues in the field and my abilities, experience, work ethic, reputation for integrity and empathy all qualify me to continue,” Donofrio said.
A part-time faculty member at Youngstown State University, Donofrio has also served as a legal counsel and board member for alcohol and drug addiction programs and counseling.
Donofrio and his wife, Janet, have three daughters – two of them teachers – and live in Canfield. Donofrio’s brother, Anthony, is a judge in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas.
ANOTHER YSU GRAD
Hanni, on the other hand, also had an undergraduate education at YSU where he holds a bachelor’s degree. He received a law degree from Duquesne Law School, where he was a member of the Law Review in 2003. Hanni has practiced in criminal courts, municipal and county courts, and federal courts, practicing criminal defense, business plaintiffs’ civil claims, labor and constitutional law, and tort cases.
A single parent working full time, Hanni began attending law school at age 36 while raising his four children after the sudden death of their mother in 1998. Prior to law school, he was employed by the Board of Elections of Mahoning County for over 16 years. , being its deputy director for 10 years.
Hanni said he aspires to become a judge “because he has seen first hand as a lawyer the positive and negative effect a judge can have on a person who appears before him”.
During this time, he said he found himself struggling with his political identity and associations.
Hanni said that for more than a decade he had been indecisive and unwilling to align himself with Democratic Party philosophies.
“In 2016, I bravely stood up for my moral beliefs and voted for President Trump,” Hanni said – noting that his staunch Catholicism continues to keep him on the path to being a compassionate human, which allows him “to speak and act with the honesty and integrity necessary in the practice of law.
As a judge, Hanni said he is committed to dealing with each case individually and to subordinate personal views and opinions.
“I firmly believe that anyone who comes into contact with a court deserves fairness, consistency and respect. I am committed to protecting each of their constitutional rights,” Hanni said.