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Toledo Legal News - News From Swanton to Switzerland, world traveler Magistrate Nancy Miller brings experience, perspective to Probate Court


Photo of Magistrate Nancy MillerNancy Miller, the Chief Magistrate of Lucas County's probate court possesses the mind of an academic, the spirit of a traveler and the kind of work ethic that's been in short supply since the Greatest Generation.

Born and raised in Swanton, Magistrate Miller grew up surrounded by family.
I had a great childhood. My father was a lab technician at Allied Chemical and my mom was a homemaker who loved to travel. I had three sisters and lots of family always close by. My grandmother and uncle lived next door. My other uncle, his wife and their three children lived next door to them. We were a big family unit. We spent lots of time with my grandmother, or traveling. We would vacation together.

As a child, she was a good student who focused on her future while attending Swanton High. There, she met people who would influence her and help shape the direction of her life. Mrs. Sagert taught psychology at Swanton and was a great teacher. She was a nice lady, very sweet and really got me excited about studying psychology.

The future magistrate also had a part-time job at a small grocery store in Swanton where she became acquaintances with a customer who was an attorney and encouraged her to pursue a growing interest in law.I was really thankful for the people in my life who inspired me. You know, my mom was a woman from a generation who didn't have the opportunity to do what they wanted to. She made sure that I understood that I needed a profession. Her encouragement and my teachers and mentors really helped me explore my options.

Set on a path towards a double major in psychology and sociology, Miller began her undergraduate studies at the University of Toledo. After earning a specialists degree in psychology from Bowling Green State University, she embarked on nearly decade of employment as a school psychologist for the Fulton County School System. Working during the day, Magistrate Miller earned her Juris Doctor by attending night classes at UT.

Her time in law school wasn't all work and study, Magistrate Miller had a social life and even managed to meet her husband, attorney Mike Mikkonen, while in law school. After earning her J.D. she accepted a position in Columbus working for then-Attorney General Tony Celebrezze, Jr. She worked in the office of the attorney general for nearly two years before Celebrezze decided to run for governor in 1990. My husband and I were keeping houses in Toledo and Columbus and travelling a lot to see each other. So when Celebrezze ran for governor I kind of took that as a chance to move back to Toledo.

Back in Toledo, Magistrate Miller began working for the Lucas County Child Support Enforcement Agency first as a prosecutor and later as a hearing officer. She then moved to Lucas County Children Services where she worked as the department's first ombudsman, a position she excelled at and was recognized for in an official proclamation from the Ohio Senate. In 1999, after three years with Children Services, Miller was appointed by Judge Jack Puffenberger as a magistrate of the Lucas County Probate Court. I've been here coming up on 13 years, says Magistrate Miller, And it's always interesting. You might think of it being all trusts and estates and administrative paperwork, but it's a lot more. We do so many things, including guardianships, adoptions and civil commitments for 25 counties from Toledo to Dayton. Those are all areas where my background in psychology really helps. It's a good combination for me.

As a magistrate, guardianships occupy most of her time, if I appoint a guardian, everything that has to do with that guardianship comes back to me. The case is mine, forever. Civil commitments, wherein people who suffer from mental disorders may be ordered by the court to the care of hospitals or mental health institutions, also comprise a significant part of Miller's work life. The magistrates have a weekly rotation schedule. So for a whole week I'll be the mental health magistrate and anything that comes up, I handle. I sign the paperwork and review everything that needs attention.
The workload doesn't bother Magistrate Miller, who has spent her professional life living up to her parents' standards. My dad didn't have a college education, but he had a work ethic. I don't know if he ever missed a day of work. And my mom, who's 89, she's still active and loves to travel and wants to see everything.

In addition to her work in the Probate Court, Magistrate Miller is involved deeply with her community. In addition to being the past president of both the Lucas County Bar and Women's Bar Association she also served on the board of the Toledo Bar Association. Miller is also active with the Coalition of Organizations Protecting Elders (COPE), a group of legal professionals, elder care providers, hospital employees, law enforcement officers, mental health practitioners and concerned citizens who meet once a month to discuss and debate issues affecting the elderly. "COPE"

says Magistrate Miller. has been a real great impetus to get things going and change things for the positive in this community on behalf of the elderly.

And she is still involved with the University of Toledo. “I’m on the Law School Alumni Board and will be the president later this summer. I mentor law students and speak in the classes. I love being at the Law School.

Busy as she is with her work and attached as she is to her community, Chief Magistrate Miller is not without her own wanderlust. Whether the travel bug bit her on one of those childhood family vacations or if a desire to see the world was passed onto her through her mother's genes, Magistrate Miller has set her sights on locations around the world and has traveled to many far-off places. In addition to numerous Caribbean cruises, Magistrate Miller has been to Cancun, Egypt, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Germany. "I've been to Switzerland quite a bit. That's a large part of my heritage, so I like going there. And I hope to visit Hawaii soon. Can you believe I've never been there?"

Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News Staff Writer

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