Retiring judge takes pride in success stories
By Sam Shawver
Special to the Times
The justice system has undergone some changes since Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane began his judicial career 30 years ago on the bench at Marietta Municipal Court.
“When I started the state code was nine volumes, now it’s up to 63, but I don’t know that we’re any better off,” he said, gesturing to shelves in his office containing the latest versions of the Ohio Revised Code.
“I’ve been told another 15,000 pages of criminal code is currently being considered,” the judge added.
One change impacting the court system over the last three decades is technology.
“Computerization has been a big change. I do everything on an iPad now,” Lane said. “And I look for the state to eventually go to an all electronic court system.”
Lane, 66, currently a Washington County Common Pleas judge, retires at the end of this month and, between hearings, is spending the final couple of weeks boxing up items from his desk and office adjacent to Courtroom B on the third floor of the county courthouse.
He wants to make the transition for incoming Washington County Common Pleas Judge-elect Mark Kerenyi as smooth as possible.
“When I came here (from the municipal court in 1993), everyone helped me become organized and get used to the daily ‘paper flow,'” Lane said.
He said he hopes Kerenyi will have an equally welcoming experience.
“I’ve been working with Mark, we’ve had several meetings,” Lane said. “I have every confidence in him, and I’m not just saying that.”
A 1968 graduate of Marietta High School, Lane received his Juris Doctorate Degree from Capital University in Columbus in 1977 and began a private attorney practice in the Pioneer City that same year.
He took the bench as judge of the municipal court in 1987.
Lane said seeing offenders able to turn their lives around have been the most satisfying moments of his career.
“A judge sees a lot of failures, and it’s not often that you get to see someone who’s turned their life around,” he said. “But I’ve had several people I sentenced to prison who later came back to thank me for helping them. Some I’ve even had breakfast with and consider them my friends.
“Everyone is part of the same creation, and the same humanity, and the point of the judicial system is to get their lives turned around,” Lane added.
He noted there are some hardened criminals who won’t take advantage of the opportunities presented while within the justice system.
But others want to change and may not have had that chance on the outside.
“In the justice setting we see many people who have come from broken homes, or have been abused, or lacked educational opportunities,” Lane said.
“Recently a young man I sentenced to 25 years to life wrote me a letter from prison saying he will now get to do the things he didn’t while growing up, including obtaining an education,” he said.
Lane said judges at every level of the court system are tasked with making the decisions that no one else wants to make, but they must do so within the limitations set by law.
“And there will always be cases that require resolution,” he said. “This is a job you have to work hard at every day.”
After retirement Lane said he plans to relax for a few months before deciding where to go from here.
He’s not planning to return to the bench in the future, but hopes to continue some affiliation with associations like the Ohio Judicial Conference.
Don Wilson, bailiff in Lane’s courtroom, said he’s enjoyed serving with the judge.
“It’s been a great 15 years with Judge Lane,” he said. “And we’re looking forward to working with Judge Kerenyi.”
Lane said Kerenyi will keep Wilson and administrative secretary Chris Painter on his staff.
Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings said Lane has always been a fair judge.
“In 24 years I’ve done a lot of cases with Judge Lane, and while I haven’t always agreed with him, he always makes decisions with an eye toward being fair to all parties involved,” he said. “He always played it right down the middle.”
Washington County Commissioner David White noted one of Lane’s greatest contributions beyond the courtroom is historic preservation.
“He’s done more than anyone in my memory to preserve the historical records of the courthouse,” he said. “Some of those records even pre-date the statehood of Ohio.”
“We have the county’s first law book in its original binding that was uncovered thanks to Judge Lane,” added Commissioner Ron Feathers.
“And the judge has always been professional in his dealings with the county,” he said.
Lane is leaving a couple of mementos behind, including a large brass “scales of justice,” and a new pendulum clock recently installed at the entrance to the jury deliberation area adjacent to the main courtroom.
The timepiece is a gift from the judge and his wife.
“We purchased the clock and had this saying engraved: ‘As time marches on, our hope is that the citizens of Washington County live in a constitutional democracy that values the rule of the law,'” Lane said.
Judge Lane bio
¯ Graduated from Marietta High School in 1968.
¯ In 1972 graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Capital University in Columbus.
¯ Received Juris Doctorate Degree from Capital University in 1977.
¯ Began private practice as attorney in Marietta in 1977.
¯ 1987-1992 served as Judge of Marietta Municipal Court.
¯ In 1993 became Washington County Common Pleas judge.