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Toledo Legal News - News Municipal Court Judge Lynn Schaefer - Tough on crime, cancer


photo of Judge Lynn Schaefer Municipal Court Judge Lynn Schaefer is strong. You don’t grow up on a farm as the daughter of a single parent without becoming reliable, steady and morally grounded. You don’t long last the grind of a Municipal Court judgeship without having deep personal reservoirs to tap. Doubly so if, like Judge Schaefer, you’ve just recently proved that you’re also stronger than cancer.

But for all that character (for lack of a better word), Judge Schaefer is one of the more personable, approachable and good-natured judges serving today in Lucas County.

Judge Schaefer is seldom far from a laugh. Her lips curl easily into smiles and part with a natural fluidity to allow laughs and guffaws safe passage out into the world around her.

If you ask Judge Schaefer what growing up in Union County, Ohio was like she'll look you straight in the eyes and answer. “Have you ever seen the movie Hoosiers?” And then she'll laugh

And for the record, if you've never seen Hoosiers, Judge Schaefer, accommodating and gracious to a fault, will further explain her hometown. “Small town, Middle America, Post-World War II, The Mickey Mouse Club, and a lot of other cliches.”

Her family, like many in Union County (which had total population of about 10,000), were farmers. Sadly, Judge Schaefer's father died when she was young, and the day to day operation of the farm fell to her mother, a homemaker who had been trained as a teacher, her older brother and, “a lot of aunts, uncles and grandparents who also farmed nearby. Plus, we had a lot of friends in the community.

Of all of Judge Schaefer's childhood memories, many of her favorites center on her summers spent at Lakeside, Ohio, a Methodist community on the banks of Lake Erie. “My family has always had a little place at Lakeside and I've spent every summer of my life there.” Amid the swimming lessons and dances, Judge Schaefer also waited tables at Lakeside's Abigail Tea Room where she was frequently tipped with, “Dimes, prayer cards and pats on the hand that I was a lovely young lady.”

The Judge graduated from Fairbanks High School in 1967 as the president of her class and editor of the school paper. “For a long time I thought that I was going to study journalism, but I also always enjoyed the study of government. So when I decided to go to college at Dennison, I majored in Political Science because I really liked the program there.”

At the time when Judge Schaefer was studying government in college, there were not many women practicing law. And so, when as a senior she began looking around for job she originally considered taking a paralegal class in Philadelphia. Luckily, she was talked out of that course of action by a professor of hers. “A professor asked me, 'Why do you want to be a paralegal? As a paralegal you'll just do all the work of a lawyer without getting the pay.' So I started thinking about that and decided to take the LSAT.”

Judge Schaefer took her LSAT's in 1970 and was the only woman who sat for the examination. In fact, she took them with her then-boyfriend, and that young gentleman was asked by the other men in the room, “Why did you bring a date?”

The Judge scored high on her exam and began attending law school at the University of Toledo. The big news on campus that year was a report by the Toledo Blade about women in law school and how the percent of women making up the student body had jumped from 3 to 8 percent. “Every year, the Women's Law Student Association pairs up lawyers with law students and I always tell the students that it always seems weird to me to see classes with more women than men.”

After graduating from law school in 1974, Judge Schaefer married Steven, her husband of 33 years. The two law students got to know each other when Steven judged the Moot Court arguments for her first Moot Court.

After being sworn into the Bar in 1975, Judge Schaefer immediately went to work for the Children Services Board as a staff attorney where she handled child abuse and neglect cases. Just a short year later she became what was at the time called a referee (now known as a magistrate) in the Lucas County Domestic Relations Court. “I really liked working with the Children Services Board. Every case there that worked out with a good result, where the child did not feel like they were returning to a war zone was a memorable case. And as a referee, as well now as a judge, I get to solve problems, which is very rewarding.”

Judge Schaefer remained a full time Domestic Relations magistrate until 1991when she decided to branch out a little. “I took a couple of small breaks in the '80's to have my two boys, but in the early 1990's I began to do some different things. I taught some child support classes at Comm Tech and then started working for the Child Support Agency in their paternity unit.”

Judge Schaefer found that her work at the Child Support Agency was not all that different from her work as a magistrate. “The bulk of what I've done in my career has been as the third-party, neutral arbitrator; the umpire in this game of conflict resolution.”

On the strength of her work with children, Judge Schaefer was appointed in 2004 to replace Judge Joseph Flores in the Juvenile Division of the Common Pleas Court. After losing a re-election bid later that year, Judge Schaefer was given a new appointment in the Municipal Court in 2005. “There were a number of appointments open and it seemed to me that the place I had the most to contribute to was Municipal Court because of all I knew about how families work or don't work. With all the domestic abuse and substance abuse that comes through here, I felt I could add what I knew about that from what I had learned working in family law.”

Indeed, her more than three decades of work with broken families has led the Judge to become very involved with helping people break free of drug and alcohol dependency. “I've been on the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services board, I really enjoyed those years. I've very passionate about getting the right kind of services available to people recovering from addiction. Sometimes that's hard. Sometimes it can be hard to get people linked up with the right services. It sometimes requires us to make that little extra push, but it's so important to get a person to their first appointment before they get their next fix.”

As hard as it can be tending to the need of so many hurting children and struggling adults day in and day out, it is even more so when your day is scheduled around chemotherapy sessions. So, since the Judge has been working hard for the families of Toledo since 1975, and since her cancer has only recently gone into remission, does she have any plans to slow down and take a well earned break? Does she feel any tug to join her husband (who has just recently retired) on the beach of Lakeside? “I've heard that when you work in the criminal justice system, it's important to hang it up when you feel that the job takes more out of you than you can give to it. That's the answer, when that happens I'll retire. But that hasn't happened yet, in fact, that's sort of how I got here in the first place.”

Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News Star Writer

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