As the first African-American woman elected to a Mahoning County bench, Youngstown Municipal Judge Carla Baldwin ’03 has broken down barriers she didn’t know existed when she dared as a child to dream of becoming an attorney and judge.
“I’m so honored to be the first. That will go down in history. Anything is possible, and the American dream can be realized for us all. It’s sad that it took until 2017 for that historic step to be made, but it was made. I did it,” said Baldwin.“When I was 12, I had no awareness of the fact that race, sex, and political party were such a big deal for an office where it should have no impact. I love what I do, but I especially love the way that my community has responded to me.”
Baldwin has served as Administrative and Presiding Judge of Youngstown Municipal Court since 2018. She presides over misdemeanor criminal cases and traffic cases as well as two specialized dockets: Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court.
“Community safety is always a top priority, but my goal is to make sure that you don’t come back. I can tell you that most individuals, no matter how great the charges, are not terrible people. They’ve made a decision based on emotion or out of despair, and now they’re in this cycle,” said Baldwin. “I look at the person as a person, not as a case number.”
Throughout her term, Baldwin has seen a positive response from individuals. “They’re willing to start to trust a system that sees them as individual entities and gives them the appropriate attention and care that they deserve,” said Baldwin.
“People are struggling, and as a result, it often forces them into a very negative position,” said Baldwin. “We have to create a support system. Do you need employment? Do you need housing? Do you need grief counseling? In cases where people have unresolved issues that manifest from the death of a close friend or family member, I’m going to make sure they get the treatment they need, and it’s going to be paid for.”
Baldwin graduated from Capital University in 2003 with a degree in Political Science. She earned her J.D. from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School with a concentration in litigation. She moved back to her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio and started her career as an assistant county prosecutor.
“As soon as I walked onto Capital’s campus, I said this is it. I decided that’s where I wanted to attend, and then I had the opportunity to compete for a scholarship,” said Baldwin. “My love of community service started at Capital. I was a peer mentor with Smooth Transitions and president of the Black Student Union.
“Community service is absolutely a passion of mine because I do believe that service is our direct payment for being here on earth,” said Baldwin. “Many of us have been fortunate our entire lives and never had to question ‘What am going to eat? Where is the food coming from? Where am I going to lay my head down tonight? How am I going to pay for this bill?’”
Through her leadership as president-elect for the Mahoning County Bar Association, Baldwin has created a Public Outreach Committee for bar members to volunteer in the community. The purpose of this committee is to help foster relationships with local nonprofits.
A member of the Ohio Bar since 2008, Baldwin is also a district trustee with the Ohio Women’s Bar Association. She serves on numerous nonprofit boards and organizations, including Mahoning County Corrections Planning Board, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown Warren Black Caucus, and Mercy Health Youngstown.
Baldwin has filed for reelection and is running unopposed in the May 2023 primary.
“I wanted to pursue this career because I wanted to make a difference. I’m excited about the opportunity to reengage and reconnect with the community,” she said. “I just want to keep learning, growing, and using the influence that comes with this seat to make Youngstown better.”
To learn more about Judge Baldwin, visit https://youngstownohio.gov/judge_profile/Presiding%20Judge.
To learn more about Political Science at Capital, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/majors-and-minors/political-science/.