PERSONAL JOURNEY: Judge helps kids, families reclaim futures

Most local residents remember Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony (Tony) Capizzi for his prominent role in the effort to get a minor-league baseball team for the city of Dayton. Capizzi’s dream of the formation of the Dayton Dragons came true during his tenure on the city commission.

But Capizzi, who is a graduate of the University of Dayton Law School and was in private practice for 25 years specializing in juvenile and family law, has a much larger passion. Though helping to bring baseball to Dayton is certainly something about which he can be proud, he took the bench in Montgomery County Juvenile Court in 2004 and has been dedicated to helping young people and their families rebuild their lives ever since.

“I lead the effort in Montgomery County for children and family needs of course,” Capizzi said. “I am also the president of the Ohio Juvenile Judges Association and I am leading the redevelopment of the juvenile judges’ curriculum. This culminated in an entire new process for all Ohio juvenile judges.”

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Nationally, Capizzi has served as a fellow for a program called “Reclaiming Futures,” a program out of Portland State University that began in 2001. Designed to help young people in trouble with drugs alcohol and crime, the program was originally funded by a grant by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and promotes new standards of care and opportunities in juvenile justice.

“I’m in a group that advises the national office on dealing with different issues,” Capizzi said. “We have 45 sites in the nation. And we are signing up counties all around Ohio. We work with communities and teach them how to deal with drug addiction in children and in families.”

Capizzi is currently president-elect of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, (NCJFCJ) an organization for which he has been a board member for the past 18 years. The NCJFCJ is the largest judicial organization in the nation and will be celebrating its 80th anniversary at its annual conference in July.

“We try to teach judges and other professionals in the business of helping families and children how to use best practices to help those families and children,” Capizzi said. “Right now, we are focusing on number of major areas like domestic child trafficking, school justice partnership and military families and how this affects children.”

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With more than 685,000 children victims of abuse or neglect each year, Capizzi said the NCIJFJ is committed to training all court officials, not just judges, on how to work with and for children – to be their advocates.

As for Capizzi himself, he continues to advocate for children and families in Montgomery County and across the country because he has always had felt called to do so.

“I have always found in my life that I am a public servant,” Capizzi said. “I loved going to law school. But I realized I liked people and families so I focused my law career on children and families. And I realized I liked being in the courtroom so I focused my court career on children and families.”

What did Capizzi think about Montgomery County when he first came to the bench 13 years ago?

“I felt Montgomery County was not as progressive as it should have been, and could have done a much better job in partnering with other agencies such as mental health and children’s services,” Capizzi said. “I’m proud to say we are now the most recognized juvenile courts in Ohio and we have the most progressive treatment programs around the state.

“I want people to know that children are basically good. We shouldn’t assume that juveniles are bad people. Too many fear our children and won’t give them a chance. If we treat them with respect we can help them with their own lives. Our kids are the best we have and we can do a lot to help them.”

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