They don’t make judges like Robert D. Walker anymore.
Walker, who died Sunday, attended Findlay College and Ohio Northern University, and interrupted his education to serve as an infantryman during World War II.
He opened a law office in 1951 in the Davis Building with Paul D. Beach.
In the early 1970s, Walker was appointed an acting municipal court judge and was later appointed common pleas court judge. He never really retired.
Walker marched to his own drum.
At the courthouse, Walker ruled the roost in Courtroom No. 1. There was never a doubt whose courtroom you were in when he was on the bench.
He commanded attention and demanded respect. He had little patience for unprepared lawyers and unrepentant lawbreakers.
At a time when child support matters were handled differently, Walker scheduled regular “Father’s Day” sessions.
Parading deadbeat dads into his courtroom, he gave them a collective stern lecture, and a choice: Be responsible for your offspring or go to jail.
Most would write a check. Those who didn’t would go to jail the next time they appeared.
When Walker sentenced criminals, he’d first ask if they had been in the military, played football or completed high school. There was no way of knowing for sure, but it is believed the “right” answers were factored into the sentence. Walker was also known for keeping his docket current, making rulings from the bench, and demanding much from those who practiced before him.
“Judge Walker was used to making decisions quickly and sticking to them,” Findlay attorney Bernie Bauer said. “If he got appealed, his attitude was, so be it.”
Walker was ahead of the curve when it came to providing ongoing training for attorneys. He regularly arranged for lecturers to come to Findlay before continuing legal education was required by the Supreme Court.
When a second judge was added to common pleas court, Bauer said Walker took the bull by the horns.
“He quickly moved the law library to the fourth floor (of the courthouse) to make room for a new courtroom, not waiting to find out that he needed to get a permit to do so.”
Walker was an old-school judge, who mixed law with military. He was a disciplinarian who expected visitors to follow his court’s dress code and etiquette.
If a spectator came to the courtroom wearing a ball cap, he’d halt the proceedings until they removed it. If a reporter got his facts wrong in story, he would take time to correct him on the record.
No, they don’t make judges like Walker anymore. But maybe they should.
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