On the day she was sworn in as the newest Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge, Lindsay Navarre received a necklace from her mother with a piece of shattered glass dangling from it.
It could not have been more significant.
Incoming Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Lindsay Navarre and retiring Judge Ruth Ann Franks get together before Judge Franks' retirement reception Wednesday at the Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo.
On Monday, Judge Navarre, 36, will assume the bench of retiring Judge Ruth Ann Franks, whom many credit with shattering the glass ceiling at the Lucas County Courthouse. Like Judge Franks, Judge Navarre began her career in the prosecutor's office, where she worked for 12 years as an assistant county prosecutor.
“Judge Franks began in the prosecutor's office, and I don't believe she was even allowed to wear pants in the courtroom,” Judge Navarre said. “She could not handle criminal cases, only child support cases. She was told she was taking that job from a man who could use it to support his family, and she was told the same thing on the campaign trail.”
Judge Franks, who has been on the Common Pleas bench for 30 years, said she is proud to pass the gavel to Judge Navarre.
“Judge Navarre brings to the bench all of her litigation experience, her negotiating experience, and her true love for the law,” Judge Franks said. “Judge Navarre is going to be a wonderful addition to the Common Pleas Court bench.”
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said she believes Judge Navarre's qualities as an assistant prosecutor will serve her well on the bench.
“She was very prepared, which is the most important thing, but also she was very compassionate and wise,” Mrs. Bates said.
Judge Navarre was sworn in Oct. 12 at a ceremony at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, not far from a 12-foot portrait of Toledo's first citizen, her great-great-great grandfather, Peter Navarre.
She asked the county's second newest judge, Ian English, to do the honors. They became friends and colleagues in the prosecutor's office.
Judge English said he was never more impressed with a prosecutor's judgment than he was when he began looking at criminal cases with Judge Navarre.
“A good prosecutor is tough,” he said. “When you're prepared to go to the next level is when you realize when to be tough, and she had that almost on day one.”
As someone who made the transition from prosecutor to judge less than three years ago, Judge English didn't mince words about how he believes Judge Navarre will make that transition.
“I want to say, but it will piss off my colleagues, that she will probably go down as one of the finest judges in the history of our county,” Judge English said. “Her level of integrity, her dedication to hard work, her overwhelming desire to see that the right thing is done, her ability to make correct judgments, her compassion, her strength — I've worked in this building [since 1993] and there are some judges' names who, although they are long gone, still echo through the halls of this building. Her name will echo for a long time after she and I are both long retired.”
A Toledo native who comes from a long line of law enforcement officers — her father is Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre — Judge Navarre has had the luxury, or curse, depending on how one looks at it, of having nearly a year to prepare for her new role.
The Democrat was elected in November, 2016, beating out opponent Shelly Kennedy by a wide margin. But because Judge Franks' term did not expire until Oct. 28, Judge Navarre continued working in the prosecutor's office until Sept. 1.
The 50 or so newly elected judges in Ohio who took part in “judge's school” last winter already had been sworn in, while Judge Navarre did not officially assume the office until this week.
“There's a tremendous amount to learn,” she said. “Since leaving the prosecutor's office, I have just become a student again. I've been using some extra office space in my husband's office just trying to digest everything I can.”
Her husband, Chris Marriott, is a patent lawyer. They have a 2-year-old son, Brock.
Judge Navarre likened her job change to becoming a first-time parent.
“Much like motherhood, you can never be completely prepared,” she said. “I've tried to make the best use of this time that I could.”
She said she intends to heed the advice she received at judge's school: It's OK if you don't have every answer on the first day.
“They kind of stressed that,” Judge Navarre said. “As much as judges are expected to know everything, you should give yourself the leeway or the cushion to be able to go look it up.”
Her mother, Julie Navarre, said her oldest daughter's drive became apparent when she was just 7 and announced she wanted to be the first female president of the United States.
“I don't think that's really that unusual for children to say at that age, but when she said it she started paying attention to current events and asking questions about how things worked — our justice system, our government — and from then on she wanted to get the best grades in her class,” Mrs. Navarre said.
She took college courses while attending Perrysburg High School and went on to Butler University and then law school at the University of Toledo.
“When I saw that [shattered glass ceiling] necklace, I thought this is for her,” Mrs. Navarre said. “She's just that person, and I know she's not done yet.”
Asked her goals for her new position, Judge Navarre thought for a moment and said, “I will approach my time on the bench much like I approached my time as a prosecutor. I will work hard. I will be fair. I will listen to all sides. I will take my job very seriously and try never to take myself too seriously.”
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