Toledo Legal News - News Work in the Old Dutch Brewery helped David Katz as a judge

 

photo of Judge David KatzThe first thing you should know about David Katz, other than that he is a Senior United States District Judge for Northern Ohio, is that he looks like he should be president. You can see for yourself anytime you like. A portrait of him hangs in Toledo’s Federal Courthouse. It is a recent portrait, having just been hung in June. It features the bespectacled Judge sitting at his bench, looking up from a book of case law with warm eyes and a lopsided smile on his face. It’s as if you’ve walked in on him, but he’s more than glad to see you.

He possesses a warm, comforting face. He looks like the kind of person you would turn to in times of trouble. In this way, the portrait is not deceptive. During the 40 minutes the Toledo Legal News spent with the Judge, his attention never flagged, he was polite to a fault and generous with his time.

Judge Katz has the bearing of a man who has worked hard to get to where he is and knows that he has earned every good thing that has come his way, even if he is far to modest to ever suggest such a thing. He paid his way through college by working 50 to 60 hours a week at the Old Dutch Brewery in Findlay. When the Brewery automated it’s process and couldn’t give him enough hours to pay tuition, Katz began digging ditches during the construction of Findlay’s first pre-fab housing development. By the way, during all of this he also studied hard enough to get into law school after only three years as an undergrad. Of course, to hear the judge tell it, “In those days, doing it that way meant saving costs.” When talking about his early years as an attorney, when he worked for the firm that is today called Spengler Nathanson, he glosses over the fact that he regularly worked 12 hour days. Rather, he talks about Joe Nathanson, his personal mentor. “We had a little rivalry going on because I was younger and he was older. He would say, ‘David, when are you coming into work tomorrow?’ and I would reply, “Well, Joe, when are you coming in?’ He would say something like he was coming in at 7 in the morning, so I would show up at 6:30 and Joe would already be there. So, over the first few years it got the point that I would go to the office between 6:30 and 7 and go home around 6 or 7.” The Judge’s eyes focus a little ways in the distance as he continues to talk about the man he clearly wished to model himself after. “Joe was extremely thorough, extremely incisive. Most lawyers do not have the luxury that he demanded of himself to be so meticulous in their work and research as Joe Nathanson did. And he had excellent interpersonal skills.” Judge Katz has clearly mastered both of those luxuries.

To discover the roots of Judge Katz’s drive, his ethics, you would need to go back to Findlay, where the judge grew up in a pre-post war America. As a child he shoveled driveways in the winter and mowed lawns in the summer for pocket money. He worked for his uncle in the Barron Steel Company. And he was personally affected by his 9th grade Latin Teacher, Zola Jacobs, a woman who would later become the superintendent of the Findlay school system. “She was a stupendous lady. She didn’t feel that I was living up to my potential. So she challenged me and it had a salutary effect.” In addition to looking like a president, Judge Katz sounds like one as well, words like ‘salutary’ and ‘whence’ spill easily from his lips.

It wasn’t only his Latin teacher who taught him discipline and hard work. During high school Judge Katz played football in the fall and ran track during the spring. He was also the sports editor of the award winning Findlay High School student paper, the Blue and Gold. On top of that, he covered high school sports for Findlay’s main paper, the Findlay Courier. “At an away football game, on the way back on the bus, I would write up the football game and deliver it to the Courier.”

After high school the judge moved to Columbus to attend college, and eventually law school at OSU.

Not only did the judge work incredibly hard to put himself through school and work study hard enough to begin law school a year early (and ultimately obtain his Juris Doctor summa cum laude) he also met Joan his wife of 52 years, during his college years. He first met her in 1952 at OSU when a fraternity brother introduced Judge Katz to his sister. They married three years later.

After law school Judge Katz spent more than 35 years as a business lawyer at Spengler Nathanson. There the judge won acclaim for the way he handled management negotiations, for which he thanks his father. “My father worked in the Old Dutch Brewery at the end of depression. He became a leader and business agent in the union there. It was an opportunity for him to work with all kinds of folks, and for me to watch him and the union members. And the exposure to their needs and that life experience was a tremendous benefit to me because I could appreciate the labor side.”

Judge Katz worked at Spengler Nathanson until he was appointed to the United States District Court by then President Clinton in 1994.

Judge Katz has the looks, and certainly the drive, to be president, but he’s more than happy as a District Court judge. “I enjoy the intensity of the law. I love research, I love writing. I love the interaction with people that you get in this position. And I love the opportunity to be exposed to something new that you’ve never had before. That challenge is daunting at first but it keeps you going as you grow into the position and grow older. I enjoy the bench, I enjoy being in trial.”

Michael A. Davisson, Toledo Legal News Staff Writer

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