- Michael D. Pitman Staff Writer
Melynda Cook Howard became the next Middletown Municipal Court judge Friday afternoon among tears laughter and mindful remembrance for Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall, the man and mentor she succeeds.
“ I want everyone to know that it doesn’t matter where you came from. It’s what you make of your life and how you apply yourself,” she said during her swearing-in ceremony. “And I think that’s what makes me a good attorney and what will make me a good judge, and a good person to follow in Judge Wall’s very big shoes.”
When Cook Howard was told she likely wouldn’t be an attorney, she said that made her want to be one even more.
Nine years later, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Then in June 2008, when she first sat as an acting judge for the late Judge Wall, she decided she wanted to be a judge.
Nine years later — and four months after Wall’s death — she became the judge for that very court.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard, Cook Howard’s husband, delivered the oath of office and presented her with her robe, complete with Middie purple piping down the front and red piping around the wrists to represent the University of Cincinnati.
“What you do as a judge really matters. It carries a lasting impact no matter how insignificant it may seem,” he said. “Be fair but be firm, be compassionate, be mindful of the profession that you engaged prior to taking the bench.”
Chris Pagan, a Middletown defense attorney and Cook Howard’s now-former law partner, called the newly sworn-in judge “a fierce person.”
“I say that in the context that she is fierce as a lawyer, in the context in representing the clients, their rights and their interests — something that we all admire,” he said.
But Pagan said she’s no longer going to be a fierce litigator, but rather a pioneer — and “Judge wall would have been proud of that.”
“Because when you take the bench you will be the first women ever to occupy the seat for Middletown Municipal Court, and that’s a big deal,” he said. “And as a pioneer you have a new responsibility, and that is as a mentor. Your job now is not only to meet out justice and be fair to litigants and be thoughtful and protect the community and protect the rights of the defendants, and all those things, you need mentor young attorneys.”
Cook Howard’s time as Middletown Municipal Court Judge will be only for a few months unless she wins election this November to fill Wall’s final two years of his unexpired term. She is one of four who have been certified to be on the ballot.
Pagan said Cook Howard represents something that Wall strived for in his courtroom.
“He wanted his court staff to reflect the community. It was important to him that it did,” he said. “And by you succeeding him, you are reflecting the community in a diverse way. Mark Wall would be thrilled about that.”