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Toledo Legal News - News Judge Connelly helping vets get out of the system, into care

 

photo of Judge Connelly"I'm exploring bringing a new specialized docket to the court. I'm very interested in bringing a veterans court to the Toledo Municipal Court." Judge William Connelly, Jr., first elected to the Toledo Municipal Court in 2009 is concerned about America's veterans. "Veterans have some specialized needs and also some specific resources that the general public doesn't. The goal is to identify veterans early on in the process. It may not change the ultimate disposition of the case, but if they're found guilty we may be able to get them services they need."

Establishing a veterans court, which takes a lot of work, paper work on the subject in stacks a foot high crowds Judge Connelly's desk. If he wants to get first-hand experience he has to travel three and a half hours to Youngstown just to observe an operating Veterans Court. But hard work isn't something that intimidates the Judge. He's a man used to working hard and going the extra mile.

Born and raised in Toledo, Judge Connelly started working as a high school student at St. John's. He worked as a clerk at a convenience store, loaded skids at a distribution warehouse, oversaw T-ball games at a city park and even managed a six unit apartment building.

After graduating in 1984, Connelly began his college career as a Buckeye at Ohio State University and finished as a Rocket law student at the University of Toledo. Returning to Toledo to earn his Juris Doctor was a natural decision for the Judge, "My family lived in Toledo and we all became lawyers. My mother and father were both lawyers. I have three sisters. All three graduated from law school. Two of them are currently attorneys and they're both married to attorneys. My wife Kerri is a staff attorney for Judge Yarbrough. Apparently there's no other skill set in the family." Judge Connelly's children, a four year old daughter and a two year old son, are the only members of his family who aren't, yet, lawyers.

As a newly minted attorney, Judge Connelly began working at the Ohio Department of Transportation. In time he left ODOT to work for then-state Senator Betty Montgomery. Judge Connelly followed her when Montgomery was elected as Ohio's Attorney General in 1995. He would eventually strike out on his own and practice as a defense attorney for several years before ultimately becoming an assistant prosecutor for Wood County in 2005. Four years later Judge Connelly was to fulfill the seat left vacant by retiring Municipal Judge Lynn Schaefer.

Connelly has been serving as a judge for over two years now and has found himself in the enviable position of looking forward to work each morning. "This is the first job I've had that I've absolutely loved. It used to be, if I ever won the lottery I'd say, 'see you later'. Today if I won I'd say, 'see you tomorrow.'"

Judge Connelly enjoys the variety that comes with being a Municipal Court judge, and the freedom. Unlike felony judges, Municipal judges don't lose control of the defendant after sentencing. I can send them out and bring them back, so I can keep track on people and watch their progress. I get letters from defendants letting me know how they're doing. I'm in contact with CCNO (Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio) to monitor people and I schedule reviews accordingly."

Although it requires more effort and work than simply handing down a verdict and moving on, Judge Connelly knows that putting in the extra time to see to it that a defendant is receiving the treatment they need. "It's worth it, it pays off. I just received a letter from a woman who appeared before me. At the time she had troubles with drugs and crime. I sentenced her, I worked with her, she got help through some programs and now she's clean, working and doing well. You know, the law is a fantastic field, but you shouldn't go into it thinking you'll make a lot of money. You should go into it if you're passionate."

That desire, and ability, to effect real change in people's lives motivates Judge Connelly's drive to create a veterans court in Toledo. "Honestly, getting a veterans court may end up being something that we can't do. It may or may not be feasible. But even just going through this process has made me more aware, more knowledgeable when I have a veteran before me as a defendant. Even if the case isn't heard in a veterans court, I can still use the information to guide sentencing."

Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News Staff Writer

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