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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2004

Appellate court based in Lima loses judge

LIMA - The Lima-based 3rd District Court of Appeals has been “running on three cylinders” since Judge Sumner Walters quietly retired Jan. 31 - a full year before his first term on the bench was to expire.

Mr. Walters, 54, said his personality did not fit appellate work, and he decided to take an opportunity to join the Lima law firm of Cory, Meredith, Witter, Rumer & Cheney.

“It was different from what I anticipated, and I discovered I needed people and I needed problems to fix,” Mr. Walters said yesterday. “I spent 16 years on the common pleas bench and I was in daily contact with lawyers on the front lines of solving problems for people.

“At the court of appeals, you do a much different kind of work. It s important work. I don t mean to demean it by any sense. I enjoy the reading and research and writing but as a steady diet I found it confining.”

Mr. Walters was elected to the appeals court in November, 1998, after serving as common pleas judge in Van Wert County for 16 years. His term on the appellate bench did not expire until Feb. 9, 2005.

Greg Miller, appeals court administrator, said a panel of three judges is required to hear a case. Mr. Walters was one of four judges at the 3rd District Court of Appeals.

“Right now we re just running on three cylinders,” Mr. Miller said. “We just don t have alternating panels. It s the same one. We haven t heard from the powers-that-be in Columbus, but we assume there will be an appointment after the primary.”

Mr. Miller said he was surprised when Mr. Walters told him late last year that he would be retiring early, but it gave the court enough time to clear out all the cases Mr. Walters had been involved with.

“They had to be released before he left or they would have had to have been re-heard,” Mr. Miller said. “All were released. It ended up being no problem.”

Mr. Walters said he announced he wouldn t be seeking re-election a year ago. That prompted four Republicans from the 17-county district to run for the nomination this year, and he hopes the winner will be appointed to fill out his term. No Democrats are on the ballot.

“Those in charge of the appointment process would be foolish to appoint anyone but the person who wins the Republican primary,” Mr. Walters said, explaining that voters - rather than any political party - would in effect be choosing the next judge.

The Republicans on next week s primary ballot are Richard Rogers, common pleas judge in Marion County; Jonathan P. Starn, a domestic relations magistrate in Hancock County Common Pleas Court, and Lawrence Huffman and Maria Santo, both private-practice attorneys in Lima.

Among the 17 counties covered by the 3rd District Court of Appeals are Allen, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Defiance, Paulding, Putnam, Seneca, Williams, Wyandot, and Van Wert.



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