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Toledo Legal News - News From Vista to Juvenile Court Judge, Denise Navarre-Cubbon is still helping people

 

photo of Judge Denise Navarre-CubbonToday, Vista may just be another operating system, but to Judge Denise Navarre-Cubbon, Vista was a life changing experience. “Vista,” said Judge Navarre-Cubbon, sitting with ease at the head of a table in a jury conference room in Juvenile Justice Center, “stands for Volunteers in Service to America, it was like the Peacecorp, but focused on domestic issues.” Joining Vista after she finished her undergraduate career at American University, where she majored in anthropology, Navarre-Cubbon spent time in Southern Texas setting up community outreach programs for migrant workers. In the summer months she would follow the workers up to Indiana and worked through the Head-Start program. “There were towns in Texas that literally closed-up during the summer months because all of the migrants would travel North. It was very interesting work, very rewarding. And it was because of that experience that I decided to go to law school.”

Not that it was the first time she had thought about becoming a lawyer. “When I was still in college, my parents decided that I should go to law school, but I didn’t think I wanted to do that. I had other things I wanted to do with my life. But, my parents sent me money to take the LSAT’s just for the heck of it.” Looking back on it now that she has children of her own, Navarre-Cubbon sees now how her parents could have understood her better than she did herself, but as a college student she sure didn’t feel that way. “I was young and thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. So I took that money my parents sent me to take the LSAT with and I went shopping.” Judge Navarre-Cubbon cracks a satisfied smile. “Of course, I had to eat a bit of crow two years later when I decided to become a lawyer after all.”

While her parents may have pointed her down the path, it was the Vista program, and working with the migrant workers that made up Navarre-Cubbon’s mind about studying law. “I’ve always been interested in politics. That’s why I went to American University in Washington D.C. I mean, if you like politics, what better place is there? During my time with Vista, I discovered how politics and government can be used to help people, how the law can give back to communities.”

After her time with Vista, Judge Navarre-Cubbon returned home to Toledo, where she and her nine siblings had been raised, to attend law school at UT. Building on her community enrichment experience, she worked for the North Toledo Area Corporation as a community organizer before beginning her law school classes. During her time at UT, Navarre-Cubbon left the NTAC to work more “traditional” law school jobs such as clerking for established lawyers.

Upon graduating from UT, Judge Navarre-Cubbon was hired by Tony Pizza as an assistant Lucas county prosecutor within the Juvenile division. There, she would eventually become a supervisor until she was elected into office as Lucas County’s Common Pleas, Juvenile Division Judge, and is now the Administrative Judge. It’s a position that keeps her busy to be sure, but she still finds the time to stay active in the Toledo community. Judge Navarre-Cubbon has been active over the years with the Toledo Ballet Association, she has been on the committee of Read for Literacy and has been involved with the Police Athletics League.

Those groups, along with her involvement in a number of professional associations and the increased workload that comes with being the administrative judge of the Juvenile Division more than keeps Navarre-Cubbon’s days packed. When she does find time to relax though, Navarre-Cubbon thinks there’s nothing better than spending time with her friends and family. “I’m a Toledo native. I grew up in the Old Orchard neighborhood. I’ve lived here pretty much all my life. I come from a family of 10 children and my husband, Stuart is the middle child of nine. We ourselves have four children. So, when I say that I spend a lot of time with my family and my friends, I mean it!”

Family is an integral part of life for Toledo’s chief juvenile court judge. Her family has shaped the way Judge Navarre-Cubbon sees the world. She learned the values of hard work and responsibility from her parents. “I was the third child out of ten, so you can imagine how much babysitting I had to do. Especially when my mother was pregnant with her sixth child and my father was gone a year in New York learning how to be a cardiovascular surgeon.” After her father, Dr Peter Navarre, returned from New York (and became Northwest Toledo’s first vascular surgeon), Navarre-Cubbon’s parents sent her to St. Ursula Academy which stressed the importance of volunteer efforts, an emphasis which would go on to direct the course of her life.

“I was really lucky to have a great childhood and great parents. I’m not saying it was perfect, we had our issues like all families. And I appreciate that so much that when I have children and families appearing before me ever day, I just so want them to have a fulfilling life and childhood just like I did. And I don’t think that’s asking so much. If we can provide those services to the families and make those changes to the kids lives, then they’ll be great parents and have great kids and that’s a great goal for everyone.”

Michael A. Davisson, Toledo Legal News Staff Writer

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