Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark W. Wall was remembered Thursday for being firm, but fair, during his 23-year career.
And by the size of the crowds at his visitation Wednesday night and his funeral Thursday morning, the judge touched the lives of people from a wide range of economic and social backgrounds. Some people said they couldn’t imagine a larger, or more important, funeral ever held in the city.
Judge Wall, 70, died Saturday night at his Middletown home from a cardiovascular event, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.
During the 90-minute Christian Mass at Holy Family Parish-Holy Trinity Church, Father John Civille said Judge Wall possessed “great compassion” while serving on the bench.
Then Civille drew laughs during Judge Wall’s funeral when he mentioned he had actually never appeared before Judge Wall in court.
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
But if he had, Judge Wall was the “kind of judge I’d like to have,” Civille said.
Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins, who knew Judge Wall for 12 years, was one of the four men who delivered eulogies during the funeral.
Adkins said Judge Wall possessed a set of core values that defined him as a judge and a lifetime Middletown resident. He said Judge Wall, who served during the Vietnam War, was fiercely dedicated to veterans and their causes; was passionate and respected the law; and was a staunch Republican.
Judge Wall was a mentor to an entire generation of Butler County attorneys, Adkins said. About 20 Butler County judges, all dressed in their robes, led Judge Wall’s casket into the church, followed by the pallbearers, then his family.
The judge was generous with his time and talent, said Adkins, a former Middletown prosecutor.
Getting into Judge Wall’s chambers was easy, Adkins said.
“The trick was getting back out of his office,” he said as laughter filled the church. “Let’s be honest, that man loved to talk.”
Adkins said there are 18,000 cases a year heard in Middletown Municipal Court, then he explained how cases are handed.
He remembered one case about 10 years ago when several young men shot up a Middletown apartment complex and cars with AK47s with “total disregard” for life or property. The suspects were arrested and they appeared the next morning in Middletown court. The courtroom was full of media members representing TV stations from Dayton and Cincinnati, Adkins said.
During the arraignment, Adkins said he slammed his fist on the table and demanded bond be set at $1 million for each of the suspects. Then Judge Wall agreed.
Judge Wall ordered a 15-minute recess to allow the media members time to pack up their equipment and leave the room, Adkins said.
When court resumed, Judge Wall asked Adkins to call the next case.
It was a Middletown woman who was charged with owning a duck within city limits.
From felonious assault to owning a duck and everything in between, that’s what Judge Wall saw, Adkins said with a smile.
Adkins said Judge Wall had the ability, despite the work load, to handle every case fairly.
“He saw the person, not the crime,” said Adkins, who added Middletown has lost “one of its brothers.”
Carl Bergman, who met Judge Wall when they were freshmen at Miami University, said Ohio Gov. George Voinovich had the “wisdom” to appoint Judge Wall to fill the vacancy when Judge James Combs died in 1994. After completing that term, Judge Wall ran unopposed three times.
“That shows how the people of Middletown and Butler County value his leadership and fairness,” Bergman said.
He called Judge Wall a fair minded and innovative judge. When roofers were charged with a crime, Judge Wall sentenced them to community service and they roofed a Habitat for Humanity home in the city. And when students were charged with truancy, Judge Wall took them to the Middletown City Jail and told them that’s where their parents were headed if they continued to skip school.
Judge Wall was a “native son who wanted to make a difference here in Middletown,” Bergman said.