Judy Jackson-Winston is the Post Decree Magistrate for the Honorable Tonya R. Jones, and the first African American judge ever elected in the history of the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. She is also the Disability Warrior for the month of June for Liner Legal, the best disability law firm in Ohio! Liner Legal’s Katie Nobles sat down with Judy to discuss her work in the disability space. Learn more about Judy, her background, and what she does by reading the interview below!
KN: Tell me about your day-to-day work.
JJW: In my role as Post Decree Magistrate, I am charged with handling all cases that are assigned to Judge Jones that deal with issues of parenting and property that occur after the parties are divorced.
KN: Tell me about your education and background.
JJW: I earned my Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from Akron University (1991); My Master of Social Service Administration (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School (1993) and my Juris Doctor from Cleveland State University’s John Marshall School of Law (1998). I am also licensed to practice law in Ohio (Esq-1999) and a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervisory Designation (LISW-S-1996).
KN: Why did you want to enter the legal field?
JJW: I wanted to become an Attorney to better assist individuals who are suffering from behavioral health issues in our state. I believed that by becoming an Attorney, I would place myself in a better position to advocate for those who are in need of assistance and to navigate the many systems that prevent individuals with disabilities from being successful and reaching their goals.
KN: Tell me about your career before your current position.
JJW: Before I became a Magistrate, I was employed as the Client Rights Officer (CRO) at the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMHS Bd) of Cuyahoga County where I proudly served for 19 years. In my job as CRO, I investigated abuse, neglect, and rights violations in those behavioral health agencies that contract with the ADAMHS Bd.and in adult care and residential facilities. In my role as CRO, I had the honor of standing up for those in the behavioral health disability community who were unable to stand up for themselves.
KN: Why did you want to work in the job you have now?
JJW: I was both flattered and amazed that my Judge tapped me to be her Post Degree Magistrate. Initially, I was worried about leaving my employment at the ADAMHS Bd as I have always been very vested in the behavioral health community and was afraid that if I left the ADAMHS Bd that I would not be able to continue my work with this population. But after reassurance from my Judge who is also a Social Worker and careful thought and reflection, I realized that by coming to the Cuyahoga County Domestic Court that I would be able to use my skills and expertise to assist families and have a greater impact on those who are navigating behavioral health issues.
Since becoming a Magistrate, I have assisted the Honorable Tonya R. Jones with starting her Families First Program. This innovative program is one of the first in the country and is offered to litigants who have minor children and a pending parenting motion and one or more family members who are also in need of behavioral health services. The program is voluntary and aimed at ensuring that those who are struggling with behavioral health issues receive supports that allow them to act in the best interest of their minor children.
To learn more about the Families First Program, contact Sonya Olgatree at 216-443-8809.
KN: Tell me about other community organizations, boards and advocacy work you are involved with.
JJW: I have been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.-Alpha Omega Chapter where I serve as the Connection Co-Chair for 30 years; I am a member of Top Ladies of Distinction-Cleveland Chapter where I serve as the Sickle Cell Chair. I am a member of the Ohio Associations of Magistrates where I serve as the Domestic Relations Practice Chair; I am a member of Disability Rights Ohio Protection and Advocacy System for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Council.
I am also a former Board Member of the West Side Community House and Cuyahoga County Department of Senior Services (DSAS) Advisory Council.
I am also the author of two fiction novels, The Anniversary and The Commemoration and the non-fiction Anniversary Behavioral Health Guide and Workbook. Both of my fiction novels have received awards. In November 2020 my first novel The Anniversary was a finalist in the Independent Author Networks (IAN) Book of the Year Award. In May 2021 My newest novel The Commemoration was a finalist in two categories in the prestigious Eric Hoffer Independent Author Contest and was awarded the Montaigne Medal Finalist and Book Category Finalist.
My work centers on mental health, sickle cell awareness and human trafficking and eradicating the stigma around these subjects and about raising awareness and advocacy.
KN: What is the most rewarding part of what you do day to day, at work and otherwise?
JJW: I find it rewarding to assist families with navigating their disputes so that they can better parent their minor children. I also find it rewarding to assist my Judge and my Court with making my workplace a model court that other courts across Ohio and the country can emulate. Lastly, I find it rewarding to use my words as an Independent Author to advocate for the eradication of stigma in mental health and to raise awareness about sickle cell disease and human trafficking.
KN: Tell me about your work in the disability space.
JJW: I am the author of two fiction novels, The Anniversary and The Commemoration and the non-fiction Anniversary Behavioral Health Guide and Workbook. My work centers on mental health, sickle cell awareness and human trafficking and eradicating the stigma around these subjects and raising awareness and advocacy with an emphasis on minority families.
I am using my words to entertain my reader and educate them about behavioral health and other social issues. I am using my words to spread the positive message that mental health matters and that treatment works. I also write a monthly, free newsletter called Winning with Wisdom where I provide information, tips and resources about behavioral health, sickle cell, and human trafficking. If you are interested in receiving my free newsletter, visit my website at www.Novelistjjwinston.com and sign up.
About the Disability Guidebook
KN: Tell me about the Disability Guidebook for Jurists and Court Staff.
JJW: I am very involved in ensuring that the disability community receives appropriate accommodations. Last year I wrote a Disability Guidebook for Jurists and Court Staff. Please review the guidebook here: https://www.adultadvocacycenters.org/assets/documents/aacs_jurist_guide.pdf
A Jurist’s Guide for Criminal Cases Involving Individuals with Disabilities was created by Magistrate Judy Jackson Winston and the Adult Advocacy Centers (AACs), in collaboration with Advocacy and Protective Services Inc. (APSI), Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), the Ohio Department 4 A Jurist’s Guide for Criminal Cases Involving Individuals with Disabilities of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Ohio Victim Witness Association (OVWA). Our intent is to provide information that will help Ohio jurists with creating accommodation strategies that ensure people with disabilities have meaningful interactions, accommodations, treatment and access when intersecting with the justice system, within the constraints of the law. The AACs hope to partner with and support Ohio jurists, to ensure that individuals with disabilities are treated with the same respect, dignity and acceptance that is afforded to all persons, as guaranteed by the federal and state Constitutions and applicable federal and state law.
This workbook is free and available to the public. Please contact the Adult Advocacy Center to receive a copy.
Being a Disability Warrior
KN: What does it mean to be a disability warrior to you?
JJW: For me, being a Disability Warrior means that I am ready and willing to stand up for those with disabilities. It means being an advocate and using my skills and expertise to ensure that those with disabilities are treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve and receive much needed services. Lastly, it means being courageous even when I am feeling uncomfortable and assist with educating the community at large about Stigma and removing barriers that prevent individuals from receiving much needed help and resources.
KN: What makes you a Disability Warrior?
JJW: I am a disability warrior because I have dedicated my whole career to assisting those with behavioral health disabilities with having a better life and getting the treatment that they deserve. Further, as a parent of a child with Sickle Cell Disease, I am vested in ensuring that those with disabilities are treated with respect and dignity. Further, it has been my personal mission to ensure that those with disabilities receive Parity and that the laws and rules that govern us all are applied equally including ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions are not prevented from receiving assistance and services due to their condition.
I believe that my personal mission of writing my independent novels and workbook and the work that I do with and on behalf of my civic organizations makes me a disability warrior willing, ready, and able to stand up and fight for those disabled individuals who need it of advocacy.
The Disability Warriors at Liner Legal work every day to fight for our clients. If you are looking for Warren OH disability lawyers, or a disability lawyer in Cleveland, Sandusky, Youngstown, Akron, Columbus, and more- call us today!