Behind the gavel: Judge Jennifer McElfresh is a Fairfield resident, concert goer and dog walker

‘At the end of the day we are just people. I’m just me,’ judge says.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

This is the first part of the Journal-News’ “Behind the gavel” series featuring Butler County judges. It takes a look at those who make difficult decisions daily and how they live outside of the courtroom.

Jennifer McElfresh is a Butler County Common Pleas judge by day with a reputation for promptness and being well-prepared when sifting through a busy docket.

By night and on weekends, She is out enjoying concerts in Hamilton and the region with her husband, Rob. The couple became empty nesters when their son left for college at the University of Cincinnati. That opened up a whole new world for the high school sweethearts, who had been very involved in their only child’s life.

“You can only watch so much TV and play so much Scrabble,” the 51-year-old Fairfield resident said. ”I think this is a great community, anywhere you look in the summertime you can go to a free concert. We have really enjoyed taking advantage of that. And living so close to Cincinnati we have had opportunity to see the national acts.

“That’s fun to see, because as we get older, they get older too,” she said.

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

McElfresh said she likes just about anything when it comes to music, from classical to jazz to rock: “all of it.”

Her husband, who is a construction manager, is “more of a county and rock guy.”

She might be singing along too, because as a teen she was a budding actress/singer. McElfresh is graduate of McAuley High School, a Catholic girls school in Hamilton County, where she was involved in drama and singing, taking the stage as Lucy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

The early acting was useful in the courtroom prosecuting child assault cases. McElfresh admitted there can be a bit of dramatic flair from attorneys during trials.

She spent 15 years as a Butler County assistant prosecutor before taking the bench in 2013, with re-election to a full term in 2014.

McElfresh smiled and acknowledged that people may have a preconceived notion of what a judge looks like and acts based on television and movies. But take off the robe, and they are fooled.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“I have had people stop me and given them directions to my own courtroom,” she said with a laugh. “At the end of the day we are just people. I’m just me.”

She is one of three siblings and her family treats her no differently since her judicial election. Neither do friends and neighbors.

“Oh the might say, I saw you on TV, but that’s about it,” McElfresh said.

McElfresh is a daily walker of the family rescue pup, Max and she regularly participates in “walk-a-hound” for the Animal Adoption Foundation in Ross Twp. It helps the dogs get exercise and socialization to make them ready for adoption.

She is a member of the Lindenwald Kiwanis of Hamilton/Fairfield, attending lots of events, including pancake breakfast fundraisers.

“They always put me on drink duty, I don’t know that that says about my skills, but I am happy to serve up coffee and talk with people,” she said.

McElfresh and her husband also have a passion for traveling, some times with their son. Last year they traveled to South Africa. And they are Bengals season ticket holders.

“I was never involved in sports. I am a klutz, but I do enjoy the games. And I try not to ask too many questions,” she said.

Quiet time is spent reading, mostly fiction, but not often courtroom dramas.

“You know I think, I have kind of already done that today,” she said.

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