LIMA — He could, at times, appear gruff and surly from his lofty perch behind the bench.
Other times he would take delight in talking at length about his pets and, of course, about Ohio State football.
David Cheney, who has presided over hundreds of criminal and civil cases over the past six years as a judge of the Allen County Court of Common Pleas, will leave that position at year’s end. Cheney, whose current term expires on Dec. 31, did not seek a new term in the 2018 election — not so much because he didn’t want to, but because he was barred by law from doing do.
Now 70 years of age, Cheney was elected to the bench in November 2011, taking the spot previously held by Judge Richard Warren, who also was a victim of the state’s age limit.
A graduate of Lima Senior High School and Ohio State University — where he was an offensive lineman on Woody Hayes-coached teams that won the Rose Bowl against the University of Southern California in 1969 and returned to the same game two years later, losing to Stanford — Cheney earned his law degree from Ohio Northern University in 1974. He served as a part-time magistrate in the Allen County Juvenile Court to supplement his private practice for several years before taking a full-time position in 2006 as a magistrate in Lima Municipal Court.
Asked what stands out in his memory from his six years on the bench, Cheney was thoughtful. He said he was at times saddened that he was called upon to “deal with so many people who seemed intent on destroying their lives.” He said the steadily increasing number of criminal cases the court hears annually “makes me sad, as a Lima boy.”
But Cheney said he also enjoyed helping people whenever possible from his seat.
“I like to think I played a major part in resolving disputes in a number of civil cases. I consider myself pretty good at it,” the retiring judge said.
Judge Jeffrey Reed is the longest-tenured member of the common pleas court staff, having assumed his seat in 1999 following his election victory the previous November. He said Cheney has been “great to work with. We worked together and I think we helped each other. He will be missed.”
Cheney said Reed “has been a tremendous mentor” over the past six years. “And I hope I’ve helped him to some extent with the experience I may have. I think we were a tremendous team.”
Cheney’s spot on the common pleas court bench will be assumed in 2019 by Terri Kohlrieser, the first woman in Allen County history to be elected to a seat on that court’s bench. Kohlrieser was elected unopposed in November after winning a Republican Party primary battle in May against Lawrence Huffman.
Kohlrieser, as a former prosecuting attorney, presented cases before Cheney for 10 years. She has gotten to know the man and likes what she’s seen.
“He’s patient, kind and thoughtful, regardless of who is before him and what they’re doing there,” said Kohlrieser. “You can tell by the way he talks to people that he is trying to make this (court experience) as easy and painless a process as possible.”
Kohlrieser, who will be issued her oath of office next week, concedes she has some big shoes to fill in assuming Cheney’s seat on the bench.
“And I have tiny feet,” laughed the diminutive Kohlrieser.
Cheney said that in retirement he will sit by assignment when needed and will do mediation work in civil cases.
Also retiring at year’s end is Peggy McKinley, who has been the judge’s administrative assistant for the past six years and has spent 30 years with the common pleas court.