OTTAWA — For the first time in 30 years, Putnam County Common Pleas Court has a new face on the bench.
Keith Schierloh was sworn in as Court of Common Pleas judge during a Saturday morning ceremony that saw some 100 people turn out to the courthouse in downtown Ottawa. Schierloh’s family and friends, along with community members and current and former judges, were among those gathered in the standing-room-only crowd.
“When I saw everyone here, it was just overwhelming,” Schierloh said. “It was fantastic to see my friends, family and the community come out. It really shows how important this is to everyone, and so I want to show the community what I can do for them as judge here in Putnam County.”
Schierloh takes over for Judge Randall Basinger, who has commanded the Common Pleas Court since the late 1980s. Basinger decided not to seek re-election in the fall, focusing instead on his campaign for a court of appeals position. He was not elected, but Basinger said he will still work as a visiting judge.
The longtime Putnam County judge said the swearing-in ceremony was bittersweet, but he assured the community that Schierloh is the right man to take his place.
“Keith is going to be a terrific judge,” Basinger told the crowd. “I have seen him in court many times, and he is going to truly be an asset to the court here in Putnam County.”
The retiring judge added that he feels Schierloh is knowledgeable, professional and hardworking, which Basinger said will serve him well in the courtroom.
“I’m confident in his abilities,” he said.
A graduate of Ottawa-Glandorf High School, Schierloh obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Findlay, and his law degree from the University of Toledo. As a general practice attorney for 18 years, Schierloh has covered civil, criminal and domestic relations cases. In addition to his law practice, Schierloh has also chaired the Putnam County Republican Party, and has served as legal counsel to numerous villages in the county.
Schierloh said his temperament and experience will serve him well on the bench.
“I definitely believe my personality will fit really well here,” he said. “I’ve always been up front, I’ve always spoken my mind, and I believe 100 percent in the law and the rights people have.”
To prepare for his term as Common Pleas judge, Schierloh has spent time learning from Basinger and other judges in surrounding counties. He said he’s spent several hours each week in the courtroom since November, trying to get an idea of how best to run a courtroom.
“Probably the No. 1 thing I’ve learned is to be straightforward,” he said. “It’s never going to help to try to skew one way or the other. The law is the law. It’s set, and it doesn’t change. Every individual that walks through those doors is important, and they have all the rights that are outlined in the Constitution. They should be given a fair, impartial hearing every time they’re in here, and I know that’s what I’ll do.”
Schierloh’s term as Common Pleas judge officially begins May 9.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.