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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 26, 2007

Wiseman makes history again as Ohio's first out judge

Dayton--Attorney Mary Wiseman is making history for the second time.

Gov. Ted Strickland on October 22 appointed the 45-year-old to the Montgomery Court of Common Pleas, replacing the retiring Judge John W. Kessler.

The appointment makes Wiseman the first openly lesbian or gay judge in the state of Ohio. In 1997, Wiseman was elected the first openly gay Dayton city commissioner, a post she held until 2002.

“I am so honored to have been appointed to the bench by Gov. Strickland,” Wiseman said. “It feels wonderful to have the opportunity to break another historic barrier for the LGBT community in Ohio.”

“I think it’s a great thing for the gay and lesbian community in Ohio, and I think our community should applaud Gov. Strickland for his courage in appointing the first openly gay judge in the state of Ohio,” she continued.

Wiseman was one of three recommendations to fill Judge G. Jack Davis’ seat on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas when he died in June. While she was passed up for that seat, Kessler’s retirement presented another opportunity.

The governor’s office believed that the Ohio Judicial Appointments Recommendations Panel that was convened to select Davis’ replacement was recent enough that there was no need to form another to determine Kessler’s replacement.

Strickland said in an October 22 release, “Mary was an exceptional candidate for appointment to the court in June, and I am please to have the opportunity to appoint her to the current vacancy. Mary is an experienced attorney and public servant who will bring great value to the court.”

Wiseman will take the bench on November 5. She must seek election to the unexpired term, which ends in 2011, in November 2008.

In addition to working for the Coolidge Wall law firm, Wiseman is also an adjunct professor of trial practice and evidence at the University of Dayton. She is on the board of Legal Aid of Western Ohio/Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and the Volunteer Lawyers Project for Greater Dayton, in addition to working on the Montgomery County Public Defender Commission.

The Court of Common Pleas is a court of general jurisdiction, meaning that Wiseman will hear both criminal and civil cases.

“My docket will include anything from capital murder cases to more routine criminal cases, and on the civil side, anything from garnishments to complex anti-trust cases,” she noted.

She does not believe that her sexual orientation will be an issue on the bench, and that it probably won’t even be brought up when she stands for election to a full term.

“My role as a judge will be to fairly and impartially apply the law and treat the people before me with respect, no matter what their position might be,” she said. “With regard to my experience on the Dayton City Commission, my experience there is that people are interested in issues that impact them on a daily basis, and sexual orientation is not something that can pick up a lot of political traction in this particular county.”

Wiseman and former Toledo councilor Louis Escobar were widely hailed as Ohio’s first openly lesbian and gay elected officials when they won office at the same time in 1997. However, those honors go to Haskins mayor Kenneth Fallows, first elected in 1985, and former Bloomdale councilor Skeeter Hunt, first elected in 1995. Both towns are in northwest Ohio, south of Toledo.



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