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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2008

Veteran judge was mentor to young lawyers

Melvin L. Resnick, 81, a retired judge of the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals and former Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge known for encouraging lawyers new to the profession, died of kidney failure Thursday in his Ottawa Hills home.

Unable to run for re-election because of his age, he retired in 2003 from the appellate court in Toledo, which serves Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties.

He underwent dialysis the last six years, rising early on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for the procedure at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

There were times when it was very difficult for him, but he was so strong, said his wife, Alice Robie Resnick, a retired justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. Mel loved life. He just persevered.

In May, Judge Resnick received the Distinguished Toledo Attorney Award at an annual Toledo Bar Association luncheon. The room was packed, just because everybody respected him so much, said Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge James Bates, who worked with Judge Resnick in private practice and in the county prosecutor s office.

He was a mentor to a number of people, not just myself, who are now judges or lawyers in town, Judge Bates said.

He was just a very strong legal mind and had a wonderful temperament for dealing with younger lawyers.

One of those proteges presented the award Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Doneghy, a former county assistant prosecutor whom Judge Resnick encouraged to run for a Toledo Municipal Court judgeship.

I loved Mel, and I tried to deliver a message of how well he was loved, and now I m glad I had the opportunity, Judge Doneghy said. I ve never seen so many judges at one event. He deserved all of that.

Judge Resnick was appointed to the appellate court in March, 1990, by Gov. Richard Celeste upon the death of Judge John J. Connors, Jr.

Judge Resnick was elected to a full six-year term that November and was re-elected in 1996.

He became a common pleas judge in 1976 after 15 years as an assistant to former Prosecutor Harry Friberg. For a time, he was chief assistant.

He was a real stickler for doing the right thing. You had to try a case the way Mel Resnick thought it should be tried, said his wife, who worked with him as an assistant prosecutor.

Judge Doneghy recalled: He was thorough and had high expectations. I learned so much about how to prepare for trial and anticipate all the kinds of issues that were there.

Judge Bates as an assistant prosecutor tried cases in front of his former boss.

He was very hard on prosecutors, Judge Bates said. He expected everybody to live up to his expectations of how a prosecutor should prepare and act in a courtroom.

As a judge, his forte was negotiating cases civil and criminal, Judge Bates said. He could anticipate the outcome of a criminal case and so could advise defense attorneys and prosecutors.

In civil matters, he had a knack of understanding the issues and being able to resolve cases, Judge Bates said.

Judge Resnick could pull the best out of those before him, said Jay Harris, a lawyer who tried civil cases in the judge s courtroom.

He was the kind of person who was smart and wise about people and compassionate, Mr. Harris said. He would often get the lawyers into his chambers and gently probe to figure out what the real issues were and saved a lot of time. He was able to listen and get it.

In 1970, he won before the U.S. Supreme Court a death penalty case he d tried as an assistant prosecutor.

In 1992, Judge and Justice Resnick made history when they became the first husband-wife team in the nation to sit on a state s highest court. Judge Res nick was on the Ohio Supreme Court bench by appointment of the chief justice, substituting for a justice who had a conflict.

Judge Resnick was born in New York City, but grew up in Toledo, where his family moved in the 1930s. His parents, Jack and Ida Resnick, were in the same profession too and were partners for decades in LaSalle Drive-In Cleaners & Shirt Laundry.

He joined the Navy before he could get his diploma from De-Vilbiss High School and served on a submarine and a PT boat.

He received a bachelor s degree from the University of Toledo and his law degree from Ohio State University.

He just always loved justice, his wife said. A lot of people were afraid of him because he had a rough exterior, but he had a heart of gold.

He liked to fish, whether dropping a line in Lake Erie or fly fishing in Idaho. He also liked to work in his garden.

Surviving are his wife, Alice Robie Resnick, whom he married March 20, 1970; sons, Kenneth and Gary; daughter,

Cynthia Hill; brother, Lawrence; six grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

At his request, there will be no visitation, and services will be private. Arrangements are by the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home. The family suggests tributes to the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio or the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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