2 new judges take the bench in Butler County, including juvenile court legacy

Dan Haughey takes the bench after being elected as new Butler County General Division Common Pleas Judge replacing Judge Charles Pater who could not run again due to age restrictions. NICK GRAHAM  / STAFF
Dan Haughey takes the bench after being elected as new Butler County General Division Common Pleas Judge replacing Judge Charles Pater who could not run again due to age restrictions. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Two Hamilton natives and former law partners who aspired to judgeships realized that goal this month when they were sworn in as new Butler County judges.

Erik Niehaus, son of the late longtime county Juvenile Court Judge David Niehaus, was sworn in Jan. 2 as the juvenile judge. Niehaus was elected in November to Judge Ronald Craft’s seat on the bench because Craft could not run for re-election due to age limits.

Erik Niehaus takes the bench after being elected as new Butler County Juvenile Division Common Pleas Judge replacing Judge Ronald Craft who could not run again due to age restrictions. NICK GRAHAM  / STAFF
Erik Niehaus takes the bench after being elected as new Butler County Juvenile Division Common Pleas Judge replacing Judge Ronald Craft who could not run again due to age restrictions. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Dan Haughey, former Butler County Area III Judge in West Chester Twp., was sworn in on Jan. 3 as Butler County Common Pleas Judge. He replaces Judge Charles Pater, who also could not seek re-election to due to age limits.

ExploreDecades of judicial experience leaving Butler County benches next month

Niehaus, 49 and Haughey, 45, practiced law together until 2017 when their firm was purchased by Rittger & Rittgers of Warren County. They then continued to practice with that firm. In addition to practicing law, Niehaus also served as a Miami University police officer and was West Chief police chief before earning his law degree from Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University

Haughey received his law degree from University of Cincinnati College of Law and is a former prosecutor who also had active practice that included civil cases.

When Niehaus enters the juvenile justice center daily, he is walking into the building that now bears his father’s name. David Niehaus died while in office in 2008.

“It is a dream (to be juvenile judge) that I always had even when my father was alive,” he said. “What I saw him do, and the impact that a juvenile judge and a juvenile court as a whole can make in the lives of kids and families, I knew that is something that I wanted to do.”

Niehaus served as a magistrate for Craft, who was a mentor, but says taking the bench in the same building where his father held a gavel is “surreal.”

Explore35 indicted in Butler and Warren counties

“I think about my dad every day,” he said.

It was the last place he saw his father alive when he stopped by chambers to say hello on the day he died.

As a juvenile judge, Niehaus said all cases are important, not just the ones in which minors are charged with serious offenses.

“We have to remember everything we do is very serious to the people we are working with, whether it is the first time they have been here on a speeding ticket or something even more serious,” he said.

“My goal when we have contact in all cases, especially the lower-level ones, is to make sure we are setting up kids to be successful and families to be successful. I truly believe any of those contacts we have with them is just am opportunity for us to set them on the right path, to help them navigate their future.”

Haughey said he believes his experience as an area court judge who also was practicing law is valuable.

“Part-time judgeships that some people aren’t fond of have a positive. It’s where don’t lose you sense of humanity or humility. You have to check that ego at the door. Because one day you are Judge Haughey and the next you are just counsel addressing someone else as your honor,” he said.

Haughey said he wants to run his courtroom as efficiently as possible and embrace new technology that can help busy dockets move faster and smoother. But what is most important, he said, “is to have people leaving the courtroom with a sense that they were treated fairly and that justice was done. That is always the tantamount of every judge. That’s the mission.”

The judgeship was something he aspired to more than 12 years ago when he sought the Republican endorsement of area judge.

“I said then this is not my last stop,” Haughey said.

ExploreBond set at $1 million for man charged in Hamilton fatal shooting

In Other News