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Toledo Legal News - News 30 years on the job and still loving it, Judge Handwork has a wealth of experience.


photo of Judge Peter HandworkHis Honor is in his mid-60’s, distinguished looking and wise. Without a doubt, being one of Lucas County’s longest sitting judges has given Peter Handwork more than his fair share of prematurely grey hairs but he carries his years and service with a simple finesse. Judge Handwork is a calm, collected gentleman with a robust sense of humor. If he seems unflappable it’s probably because he has seen so many changes in his 30 years as a Judge that there isn’t much left that can send him into turmoil. After all, since first being elected in 1977, Judge Handwork has seen not just computers enter the courtroom, but the Internet as well. He’s seen not only female attorneys become more prevalent, but was also there to welcome Alice Robie Resnick, the first woman justice to the Sixth Appellate District Court of Appeals.

Judge Handwork was born and has spent most of his life in Toledo. The judge smiles around the corners of his lips when he talks about growing up. “My childhood was wonderful. I went to a wonderful schools, the Maumee Valley Country Day Schools. My family lived on Corey Road back when it was like living in the middle of nowhere. I grew up with three brothers and our mom was always home to take care of us. That was back in the days when moms stayed home. It was a nice time to grow up.

“My father, Bentley T. Handwork, was a real role model for me. He had a lot of strong beliefs, especially about how you conducted yourself. He preached honesty and commitment. I hope those things stick with me today. He was the kind of guy you respected. You may have been a little scared of him, but you loved him and you learned so much from him.” Admiration pools in the lines and little crevasses of the judge’s face when he reflects on the influence the man had on him. “You know, he’s still alive today. Not many people are fortunate enough to have a 93 year old dad still around to tell us how to do things right.” The smile on his face breaks open and a warm, hearty laugh issues from him.

In addition to playing and horsing around in the relatively undeveloped Toledo that was his home, and working traditional summer jobs like painting and lawn care, Handwork developed a feel for government and how it could affect people’s lives. “I was always involved in student government bodies in school. I served as the president of the student council in high school and the vice-president of the Toledo area student council. I was president of the student body at Lake Forest College where I got my B.A.. I think I was always pointed towards public service.”

After attending Lake Forest (which he attended because he liked the admissions counselor who came to his high school), Judge Handwork returned to Toledo to take classes at the University of Toledo’s law school. “I saw the law as the way of realizing my desire to work in government.”

After law school Handwork began working for the Port Authority of Toledo before moving to Toledo law firm Eastman & Smith. He left that firm to become an assistant United States prosecuting attorney. After that he began a private law practice with Watkins and Knight. “Thereafter, I was appointed in 1977 to the position of Common Pleas Court Judge.” At the time, Judge Handwork was only 35 years old and in five years he would be elected to the bench in the Sixth District Court of Appeals, where he still sits today.

The judge put in long hours and worked hard throughout all of his jobs, but he still managed to find time to date and marry. Judge Handwork and his wife, Claudia, together have six children. And the judge’s face lights up when he talks about them.

Judge Handwork’s children are all grown now, of course, and scattered across the country. “Because we have a child in California and one who used to live in South Carolina I remember a week where my wife and I stood on the beach in the Atlantic Ocean and the beach in the Pacific Ocean. Last year we traveled to Syracuse, New York to visit our daughter and the Finger Lakes.” Handwork and his wife don’t only travel to visit their children though, they are accomplished world travelers who have visited Alaska, France and England and are hoping to visit Scandinavia soon.

So what’s next for a world traveler, a long serving judge and a man who has hit three holes-in-one in his life? “Grandchildren. They’re my real interest at this point in my life.” The judge becomes animated and excited just talking about the newest members of his family. “We have 10 grandkids now with two more on the way and more to come, I’m sure.”

The judge’s lips, which normally seem to always curl up, flatten a little when he thinks about the years and his career. He is getting to the point in his life where he is becoming a little introspective about it all. “I’m on the short end of the trail now, heading for home I guess. It’s interesting. I always liked government and pursued that through the law. And as soon as I got involved with the law I just knew I wanted to be a judge. I got lucky early on. I was in the right place at the right time. And I’ve been able to do what I wanted to do and I’ve done it for 30 years now.”

Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News Staff Writer

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