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Published: Monday, 1/3/2005

Judges take part in courtroom shuffle

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Judge Gary Cook moves into the courtroom of former Judge Ronald Bowman. Judge Gary Cook moves into the courtroom of former Judge Ronald Bowman.
LUKE WARK / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

With its 20-foot high ceiling, oak wainscot, and dentil molding, the third-floor courtroom of the Lucas County Courthouse holds sentimental value for Judge James Jensen.

It was in this courtroom that Judge Jensen, as a law student, worked years ago as bailiff before he went on to become a common pleas judge.

Next month, Judge Jensen will come full circle as he relocates to the courtroom that he has admired since 1967, when he worked for the late Judge Nicholas Walinski.

"There are a lot of interesting memories. This was my first experience to the criminal and civil proceedings in the judicial system. It is like starting all over," Judge Jensen said.

The moves were triggered by the November elections: three people won seats on the common pleas bench; another judge departed for the Ohio court of appeals, and a fifth, who lost the seat on the appeals court, is leaving because his term expired.

When the dust settles, seven of the 10 common pleas courtrooms will have new judges.

"We kind of liken it to the system used in the NFL draft," said Jean Atkin, court administrator.

Judge Jensen will move into the courtroom of Judge William Skow, who will leave next month for the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, a few blocks away on Constitution Avenue.

"I will miss the decor of the courtroom," said Judge Skow, its occupant since the late 1980s. "I don't think you could construct a building like this anymore. It would be cost-prohibitive."

The courtroom shuffle is akin to bidding by union members for openings in the workplace: courtrooms are awarded according to the judges' seniority.

At the bottom of the totem pole, the newly elected - Gary Cook, Denise Dartt, and Thomas Osowik - will end up with courtrooms on the building's fourth floor.

Judge Cook, a former county prosecutor, was sworn into office last month. Judge Cook took the courtroom of Judge Ronald Bowman, who could not seek a fourth term because of age restrictions. The courtroom served as the state appellate court for many years.

"The courtrooms are equally very nice and all of them have their amenities, but I picked this courtroom out of respect to Judge Bowman. It is an honor to inherit a courtroom from him," he said.

Judge Dartt and Judge Osowik, both formerly of Toledo Municipal Court, will be sworn into office today and tomorrow, respectively, and they will take up the dockets of civil and criminal cases that were maintained by the judges they replaced.

Judge James Bates will take up residency today in the third-floor courtroom of Judge Robert Christiansen, whose term expired at midnight Friday. He ran unsuccessfully for the appellate court against Judge Skow. An appointment to replace Judge Skow has yet to be made by Gov. Bob Taft.

The future move for Judge Jensen will mark the fourth courtroom for him since coming to the common pleas court in 1995. "Hopefully it will be my last," he said.

Changes also are under way in Toledo Municipal Court because of the departure of the two municipal judges.

Appointments have yet to be made to replace Judge Osowik and Judge Dartt.

Meanwhile, Housing Court Judge C. Allen McConnell will move his proceedings into the vacated first-floor courtroom of Judge Osowik.

Contact Mark Reiter at : markreiter@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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