The next Middletown Municipal Court judge — at least until November — is local defense attorney Melynda Cook Howard.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office made the appointment Friday to fill the vacant bench of the late Judge Mark Wall, who died in February.
“It’s not the way I’d envisioned it,” said Cook Howard, but still she’s “glad” to receive the appointment.
Kasich’s office made the appointment some 3½ months after Wall’s death. In that time, the Ohio Supreme Court had assigned three retired judges to hear cases until an appointment was made.
“I’m honored and humbled and very excited to be taking over the Middletown Municipal Court judge seat,” Cook Howard said. “I want to honor Judge Wall.”
Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall was the first to call Cook Howard, telling her to expect a call from Kasich. A few minutes later, the governor gave her the news.
Hall said Cook Howard was rated as “highly qualified” by the party’s screening committee, and “she will make an excellent Middletown Municipal Court judge.”
But the appointment is only temporary. Wall died three years before his term on the bench expires, and by state law an election must be held for a person to serve out the remaining two years. Cook Howard is one of five certified by the Butler County Board of Elections to run for the seat.
Others expected to be on the November ballot in the non-partisan are local attorneys Beth Yauch Joseph, Terri King, Jeff Milbauer and James Sherron.
Sherron was actually the recommended pick by the Middletown area contingent of the Butler County Republican Party’s Central Committee, though only 30 people voted in that recommendation.
“It certainly wasn’t an endorsement,” Cook Howard said. “(Kasich) looked at the qualifications of the candidates, and I’m sure he chose the most qualified person.”
Sherron was in court Friday afternoon and couldn’t comment on Cook Howard’s appointment before deadline, but did say, “As it stands right now, I intend to stay in the race.”
Cook Howard will wind down her role as partner at the law firm Repper, Pagan, Cook in Middletown.
Cook Howard will take the bench in Middletown Municipal Court on June 19, a special day because it is also the birthday of her late mother, Lorena, who died in 2004.
“I wanted it to be a special day,” said Cook Howard, who will take her oath of office just a few days prior on June 16.
When Cook Howard is sworn-in next month, she and her husband, Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Howard, will be the first husband-and-wife judicial couple in the county, she said.