Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Lawyers Come Together for Career Transition

Katrina Kight has handled thousands of cases in front of judges during her 26 years as a lawyer. But she never felt a spotlight brighter than her first hearing as a magistrate.

The first case for the northwest Ohio attorney wasn’t real. It was a mock trial as part of new magistrates orientation at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus.

Kight is a Paulding County Common Pleas Court magistrate.

She and the 62 other magistrates who attended the three-day orientation were appointed by an elected judge. There are 869 magistrates in Ohio who assist judges by handling primarily minor offenses and preliminary hearings. The orientation by the Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial College helps magistrates develop judicial writing skills and make the switch from advocate to arbiter.

“You are stepping into a world where you are now the decisionmaker,” Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy said during a speech to the magistrates. “And it should be weighty, and it should feel weighty, and you should wrestle with the decisions that you’re about to make. Because in the end, you are going to affect someone’s life.”

The chief justice shared with the group some of her experiences as a Butler County Court magistrate, and the challenges that come with deciding cases.

Those difficulties include resolutions based on law instead of convenience and how “the separation of powers should never be overtly overlooked. You've taken an oath not only as a lawyer, but as a hearing officer, to support and protect the Constitution of the United States and the state of Ohio and the laws of this state. And if we don't do that, anarchy is surely to follow.”

Kight felt that weight during her 15-minute practice session on the bench. The staged trials put magistrates in challenging circumstances. Cases can be chaotic with constant disruptions from litigants and spectators.

“It was a worst-case scenario,” said Kight, who has done extensive work in family law.

In the educational scenario, a civil dispute about a divorced couple’s home quickly spiraled out of control with outbursts and accusations that had nothing to do with the case. Amid all the disturbances, Kight did her best to gather facts and allow each party to be heard.

“It makes me think how I want to handle some of the things that are going to come my way,” said Kight.

She and her group of eight magistrates took turns practicing and critiquing. Each offered advice from their experiences.

“It’s given me some time to feel like I can breathe. I have others to go to for backup if I need them,” Kight said.