Login | January 22, 2019

Meet Common Pleas Court Magistrate Dan Dascenzo

Legal News Reporter

Published: April 12, 2018

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Magistrate Dan Dascenzo didn’t decide to go into the legal profession until after college, but once he began law school he said it was clear that the courtroom was where he wanted to spend his career.

Now he’s hoping to take his passion to the next level, as he vies to win the May 8 primary and become the Democratic Party’s candidate for common pleas court judge.

The winner will likely replace Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Lou D’Apolito, who can’t run for reelection due to age restrictions.

There is no Republican candidate, and at the time of this publication, no independent had filed.

Dascenzo has served as magistrate for Judge D’Apolito since 2008, presiding over more than 10,000 civil and criminal cases.

“I love the work that I do as a magistrate,” said Dascenzo. “Presiding over cases allows me to have a profound effect on people’s daily lives,” he said. “No matter how large the case may be, it always matters to those involved and it is important to listen to all sides of the story.”

Born and raised in Youngstown, Dascenzo is the second youngest of seven children.

After graduating from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1986, he joined the Ohio Army National Guard, where he spent six years as a combat engineer.

He used his GI Bill benefits, combined with the money he made from part-time jobs driving trucks and in construction, to cover the cost of college.

He started at The Ohio State University, but completed his bachelor’s degree in English at Youngstown State University.

After college, he took a job at Superior Beverage Group, where he performed sales and marketing duties.

“I was not sure what I wanted to do,” Dascenzo said. “My older sister, Janine, had graduated from law school and she was doing very well. One day she and I were talking about what I should do and she planted the idea of law school in my head.”

“There were no lawyers in our family, so it was not a natural progression,” said Janine Dascenzo, general counsel for Current, powered by GE and GE Lighting. “I am five years older than Danny and I think when he saw how much I loved being a lawyer, it inspired him.”

Dascenzo enrolled at The University of Toledo College of Law, the same school his sister attended.

He received his juris doctor in 1998, beginning his career as an associate at Green Haines Sgambati, where he represented employees and unions in labor, employment and civil rights matters.

Dennis Haines, a partner at the firm who worked with Dascenzo said Dascenzo always took a personal interest in his clients and their problems.

“He never treated clients like they were a commodity,” said Haines. “Dan is bright, well-educated and writes very well. I was very pleased to work with him and when he decided to leave the firm, he did so because of his interest in exploring other areas of law and in becoming a judge.”

Haines said he and others at the firm have appeared before Dascenzo since he became a magistrate.

“He did not treat us any differently than anyone else,” said Haines. “Magistrate Dascenzo was always considerate to all the litigants before him. Dan possesses the demeanor of a jurist. He is calm, respectful of all parties and he maintains good control of his courtroom.

“Whenever there is an opportunity for problem solving without disturbing his responsibility of impartiality, he certainly makes an effort to do so,” said Haines.

After leaving Green Haines Sgambati, Dascenzo spent about two years at Friedman & Rummell Co., where he represented local companies in litigation matters.

“I liked the firm, but I was not getting into court enough,” he said.

In 2006, he got the chance to serve as a trial attorney on a full-time basis at Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld & Lodge (now known as Roth Blair), where he focused on business litigation.

About two years later, he received a call from Judge Lou D’Apolito asking if he would like to serve as his magistrate.

“It was an easy decision because I knew it would be great training that could lead to my becoming a judge someday,” said Dascenzo.

Attorney William Scott Fowler, a member of Comstock, Springer & Wilson Co., has come before Dascenzo on a number of occasions.

“I think Magistrate Dascenzo is very conscientious,” said Fowler. “He is committed to working out the best resolution that he can for the parties involved as long as it’s consistent with his obligation as magistrate.

“He does a good job of communicating his decision to the parties involved, explaining the legal reasoning clearly,” he said. “I won’t say I’ve always agreed with his decisions, but I will say that I have always been treated fairly.”

A member of The Mahoning County Bar Association and the Ohio Association of Magistrates, Dascenzo lives in Boardman with his wife Natalie and their two sons Jack and Alex.

After 10 years of experience as a magistrate, Dascenzo, who turns 50 on May 4, said he believes he’s ready to take over for Judge D’Apolito.

“As magistrate, I’ve learned the importance of being patient and making sure that everyone, regardless of their background or financial status, gets their day in court.

“The common pleas court is a place of fundamental fairness where defendants, plaintiffs and attorneys know they will get a fair shake and I want to become a judge to ensure that this continues,” said Dascenzo.

If elected, Dascenzo said one of his top priorities will be tackling the opioid epidemic.

“I want to secure more funding, specifically funding that can be used toward prevention programs,” said Dascenzo. “I believe the programs need to be bolstered in our schools and we need to offer more alternatives within the court system for low-level offenders suffering with addiction.”

Dascenzo said he would like to start a program to assist all residents in learning the practical tools of addiction prevention.

“I’ve seen the number of low-level felony possession cases quadruple since I became magistrate in 2008,” Dascenzo said. “I think we need to offer residents something other than a short sentence in jail or probation. We need to attack the problem head on so that we do our best to get out in front of it.”

Dascenzo’s sister Janine said she believes her brother’s experience as a trial attorney and a magistrate will allow him to serve the community well if he’s elected judge.

“My brother has been on both sides of cases so he has a balanced perspective from both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s side of the case,” said Janine. “He also possesses the right temperament for the job and he has a strong sense of justice and fairness.

“Ever since we were kids, he’s been concerned about those who could not stand up for themselves.”