As Berea Judge Mark Comstock enters retirement, Democratic nominee seeks to modernize court, address budget

A budget shortfall and an aging workflow top the list of priorities for Democratic nominee Sean Kilbane.


Courtesy of Berea Municipal Court

Retiring Berea Municipal Court Judge Mark A. Comstock.

An update was made on April 17, 2023: In a previous version of this article published in print and on, Berea Municipal Court candidate Sean Kilbane, said that he expects the court’s budget shortfall to be around $325,000 for 2023. After receiving an update from Kilbane via text a change was made to read that Kilbane said that this year the court will be on track to be in a deficit of around $100,000.

Judge Mark A. Comstock, the Berea Municipal Court judge since January 2, 2000, is retiring after his fourth six-year term has concluded, leaving the court which presides over Berea, Brook Park, Middleburg Heights, Olmsted Township, Olmsted Falls, the Metroparks and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The election to replace Comstock will be held on Nov. 7. Sean Kilbane, a candidate in the race against Republican contender Michele Lynch, received the Democratic nomination for the seat on March 5.

Kilbane is currently an assistant prosecuting attorney at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors office. He has spent his legal career in criminal litigation. Kilbane said that he had extensive experience in the court system, including when the process was backed up during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’ve interacted with 50 to 60 judges countywide. I’ve interacted with multiple defense attorneys, bailiffs, police officers , other prosecutors, and I know the challenges that the criminal justice system faces on a daily basis,” Kilbane said.

Kilbane said prior experience is important for someone looking to be a judge.

“I understand these challenges. It’s so important to have a judge that understands what the role of a judge is. That’s to be fair and impartial to all sides, be professional to the parties that appear before the court, [and] be efficient with their time,” Kilbane said.

The judgeship Kilbane is seeking serves a dual purpose. Not only does the Berea Municipal Court judge preside over cases, they also delegate tasks and serve as the court’s chief operator.

“The judge there doesn’t only hear the legal issues, they are also the administrative judge. So, they handle the day-to-day business of the court,” Kibane said.

One significant task at hand for the next judge will be navigating the court’s significant budget deficit over the last few years. Kilbane said via text that he believes that this year, the court is on track to be in a deficit of around $100,000.

Kilbane said that if he wins the race, he will update the court’s systems to be more efficient, a major motivation of his campaign.

“I want to bring the Berea court into the 21st century,” Kilbane said. “A lot of courts around here are still paper and pen courts. I want to integrate new case management systems to make cases move more efficiently through the system.”

Comstock said that at 68 years old, he is the longest serving judge of the court. Echoing Kilbane’s sentiment, he said that any court needs to change and improve over time.

“You can’t keep anything forever,” Comstock said. “You’ve got to let the next generation come in and put in what they perceive a s advancements and improvements… It’s an evolutionary process, and I think it’s time to get out of the way.”