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Published: Monday, 6/22/2009

Appellate judge was revered as a legal scholar and humanitarian

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
William Skow, elected to the appellate court in 2004, served 18 years as a common pleas judge. William Skow, elected to the appellate court in 2004, served 18 years as a common pleas judge.
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Judge William Skow, a jurist on the 6th District Court of Appeals who was revered in the legal community for his understanding of the law and constitutional issues, died Sunday of severe pancreatitis in Toledo Hospital.

Judge Skow, 68, one of five judges on the state appellate panel in Toledo, which serves Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties, had been hospitalized since April 8, his daughter, Sarah Skow said.

A Toledo Municipal Court judge from 1983 to 1986, he served 18 years as a Lucas County Common Pleas judge before being elected to the state appellate court in 2004.

Judge Arlene Singer, a colleague on the appellate bench, said Judge Skow was a legal intellectual who possessed wit and a sense of humor.

He was respected and admired by lawyers and judges, Judge Singer said. He had compassion and a real sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Retired Judge Ronald Bowman, who served with Judge Skow on Common Pleas Court, said that among the late judge s strengths were writing well-thought-out and comprehensive opinions.

I think that law-wise and intellectually, he was one of the most brilliant people who I have ever met in my life, Judge Bowman said. He could make a complicated issue very simplistic.

Common Pleas Judge Charles Doneghy said Judge Skow was a legal giant who possessed great intellectual knowledge. He said the legal community has lost one of its most outstanding scholars.

He could make the tough decisions regardless. In some matters, he made decisions that people took issue with, but he made the right call because of his knowledge, Judge Doneghy said. I just idolized him. There was no one else like him. He had all of the ingredients to be a complete judge and a complete humanitarian.

Toledo attorney Fritz Byers called Judge Skow a man of towering intellect, great learning, and deep humanity, all leavened by a broad streak of brilliant humor.

The son of an ophthalmologist, Mr. Skow grew up in Ottawa Hills. He graduated in 1959 from Ottawa Hills High School, where he played football, basketball, and golf, a sport that he took up as a hobby later on in life.

He attended Harvard University, receiving a degree in American government in 1963.

He went to law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1966. His daughter, Sarah Skow, said he had the choice of other law programs, but chose the University of Michigan because he wanted to return to the Midwest.

After law school, Mr. Skow was drafted into the Army and spent one year of his 22-month enlistment in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Ms. Skow said her father patriotically accepted his role in the military as an ordinary soldier.

He was a private. He always felt that he wasn t any better than anyone else. He wanted to do his time in the Army like anybody else was doing their time, she said. Dad never saw himself as being better than anybody else.

After his discharge in 1969, Mr. Skow returned to Toledo to practice law in an office with several other attorneys.

He became active in the re-election campaign of longtime U.S. Rep. Thomas Lud Ashley in 1976, when the Democrat survived a challenge from a then young Carty Finkbeiner. Mr. Skow joined the congressional staff of Mr. Ashley.

Mr. Ashley recalled that Mr. Skow was a highly motivated, skilled lawyer with organizational skills when he became his chief legislative assistant.

He learned a lot from being there. I think he could have been successful in a number of other pursuits. He was a very talented person, said Mr. Ashley, who lost the 9th District Congressional race in 1980.

Bill became one of the most brilliant and one of the most unusual Common Pleas judges that we have seen in our lifetime, Mr. Ashley added.

While working for the congressman, Mr. Skow married the former Felicia Jagodzinski. They cele brated their 30th wedding anniversary in April.

After the 1980 election, Mr. Skow returned to Toledo and resumed his law career, working in a law office with several attorneys.

He was appointed by Gov. Richard Celeste to Toledo Municipal Court in February, 1983. He was elected to complete the unexpired term in November of 1983 and won election again in 1985.

Judge Skow was appointed to a vacancy on Common Pleas in March, 1986, and was elected to finish the unexpired term that same year, the first of four elections in which the Democrat never faced an opponent.

John Weglian, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor, was a partner in Judge Skow s law firm and went on to argue criminal cases in his courtroom.

He was a very thorough judge. I think that he read everything that was filed in his court and he took the stuff seriously, Mr. Weglian said. He was a bit more liberal than most prosecutors preferred to have. He was not unreasonable in regard to his decisions. He was a fair sentencer.

Mr. Weglian also collaborated with the late judge on material for the Gridiron Show, presented annually by the Toledo Junior Bar Association.

The Gridiron allowed him to show his witty side, he said.

Ms. Skow followed her father into a career in law, graduating from the University of Toledo college of law.

A member of the Junior Bar Association, she worked with her father in the annual Gridiron Show in 2007 and 2008, when he reprised his role of Elaine Higgins, who for many years roamed downtown Toledo as the bag lady.

Judge Skow was a recipient of the Toledo Bar Association s Order of the Heel, awarded annually to a member who has unselfishly given his time, energy, and talent to young lawyers.

He also has been the recipient of the group s Order of the Sole for unselfishly giving time, energy, and talent to assist in the development of the Gridiron Show.

Surviving are his wife, Felicia; daughters, Sasha Skow-Lindsey and Sarah Skow, and brothers, Jack and Jim Skow.

Services will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 South Reynolds Rd., where visitation will be after 2 p.m. Wednesday.

The family requests that tributes be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, Ala., Toledo Chapter of the American Red Cross, or WGTE Public Radio.

Contact Mark Reiter at:markreiter@theblade.comor 419-724-6199.



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