2012-01-05 / Front Page

Judge Walsh To Retire

Will step down from Court of Common Pleas bench end of 2012
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Judge Richard Walsh Judge Richard Walsh Timing has been a key factor in numerous aspects of the life of Richard Walsh.

The timing of the Vietnam draft allowed Walsh to spend eight years in the United States Navy’s medical service corps following his lifelong passion for the life sciences. Good timing as well as a love of tennis also prompted him to meet his wife, Peggy. Years later, welltimed state legislation allowed Walsh to become the fourth judge with the Fulton/Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Last Thursday sitting down with the “News,” Judge Walsh said it was the “right time” to publicly announce his intention of retiring from his position within the 39th Judicial District. Only having previously discussed his decision with his wife, colleagues and his law clerk, the announcement is unexpected as Walsh’s 10-year term of office is not slated to expire until 2017.

According to Walsh, 61, he never anticipated holding on to the robe until age 70 when his seat on the bench would “max out.” Having decided to step down at the conclusion of 2012, an election will be held in 2013 to select a replacement for a full 10-year term.

His suggestions for any candidate interested in putting their name out there for consideration by registered voters in Fulton and Franklin counties: brace yourself for a race, be passionate about the law and always be mindful of the independence of the judiciary.

“You can get a tremendous satisfaction out of doing good things,” he said. For himself, satisfaction was attained by watching defendants “succeed” after being offered a variety of services offered locally ranging from the Day Reporting Center and drug treatment to alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM program.

Failure, however, remains one of the most difficult aspects of the position. Namely, watching juvenile offenders resurface years later in criminal court after having been afforded an opportunity as well as necessary services to get their lives back on track.

“It tears the heart out of you,” Walsh said. Perceived by those who know him as being a good listener, sympathetic and having a big heart, the judge said it’s always necessary to remember the chain of events or circumstances leading up to an individual’s arrest. Even there is always a winner and a loser in every situation and disappointment abounds, there is also the opportunity to wonder if a sentence is too lenient or harsh.

“You think about things and do the best you can ... . One of most comforting things about this job is any decision is appealable. You have the right to take it to another level of court. It’s a comforting thing to know you can have your decisions reviewed,” the judge stated.

Advance preparation is key to helping insure a sentence is proper for the situation at hand and for all matters in the courtroom.

“Preparation in many aspects needs to be as thorough if not more so than that of the lawyers representing their clients,” Walsh said.

As caseloads in both Fulton and Franklin counties have continued to rise in recent years, a judge’s work accordingly increases. With increases notable in retail thefts, custody cases, protection from-abuse orders and child-support cases, Walsh stated such incidents can often be traced back to the difficult economy.

Looking forward to the additional family time he will be able to spend with his wife and children Hilary and Daniel, Walsh said his hobbies of tennis and photography have at times taken a back seat to his workload. Being able to spend time revisiting those passions along with keeping ties to the Court of Common Pleas will be important aspects of his life moving forward in 2013.

Walsh noted he hopes he will be considered for a senior judge’s position in order to maintain the strong relationship he has developed over the last 14 years with judges Douglas Herman and Carol Van Horn as well as newly elected judges Angela Rosenberry Krom and Shawn Meyers. Walsh referred to the bench of judges as being “dedicated, committed and attuned to the fact everything they do relates back to the communities they live in.”

“I will miss my colleagues and my staff the most,” he concluded. “There’s no doubt I’ve been blessed.

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