Login | December 13, 2018

Meet Akron Muni Court Judge Nicole Walker

Legal News Reporter

Published: March 2, 2018

Growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, Akron Municipal Court Judge Nicole Walker said she always had a desire to help people who face the biggest challenges in life.

While she initially planned to do so as a social worker, she said her father, who was a police officer, proved to be a powerful public service role model, eventually influencing her decision to go into the legal profession.

“My dad always wanted me to become a lawyer,” said Judge Walker. “My previous job as a magistrate in the Summit County Probate Court was probably the closest thing to social work that I’ve ever done in the law until now.”

Although her career choice led her to become one of two new Akron Municipal Court judges to take the bench this year, colleagues said her journey was not an easy one and involved a lot of hard work.

While studying for her bachelor’s degree in English literature at The University of Akron, she took a job at Brouse McDowell as a part-time receptionist. She later became a full-time receptionist at the firm and worked her way up to assistant librarian and then librarian.

During her time at Brouse McDowell, she also attended The University of Akron School of Law at night. When she obtained her juris doctor in 2006, she became an associate at the firm, focusing on business and civil litigation.

Brouse McDowell partner Jeffrey Heintz was managing partner when she was an associate.

“I think Nicole Walker is an American success story,” said Heintz. “She set her sights on what she wanted to do and made it happen.

“She did not come from a wealthy family but she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and eventually became a judge, which is incredibly inspiring.

“I think what she has accomplished is a testament to her work ethic, dedication and the quality of her work.”

Clair Dickinson, of counsel at Brouse McDowell and Summit County Councilman At-Large also worked with Judge Walker while she was at the firm.

“I met her when she was the firm’s librarian,” said Dickinson. “I was very impressed with how bright and hard working she was.

“She had a desire to contribute to the community so she went to law school while she was at the firm, which took a lot of initiative.

“I know she will be an excellent judge because she cares about people and the community.”

When Judge Walker left Brouse McDowell in 2007, she became an assistant prosecutor in the felony division of the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.

“She left the firm because she wanted to get more involved in public service,” said Dickinson.

As assistant prosecutor, she was first assigned to the courtroom of then Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer.

“Judge Walker tried her first case in front of me,” said Judge Stormer, now Summit County Probate Court judge. “I was really impressed with her work.

“She also had the fortitude to come to me and ask for constructive criticism, which few lawyers do. She was determined to be extremely good at what she was doing and she accomplished that.

“Several years later, my judicial attorney left and I hired her to be a judicial attorney and magistrate in the general division,” said Judge Stormer. “When I took the probate court bench in 2013, I brought her along with me.”

As time went on, Judge Stormer said Judge Walker became a full-time magistrate in the probate court.

“I asked her if she wanted to run for judge a few times and she always said no, but then one day I asked and she said yes,” said Judge Stormer, who swore Judge Walker in on Dec. 19, 2017.

“I was very supportive of her decision and I think she has a brilliant career ahead of her.”

“Running for judge was a natural progression for me,” said Judge Walker, who lives in Akron with her husband Robert. “I’ve had the rare privilege of practicing in several different areas of the law, which helps me on the bench.

“The main difference as judge is that I am the full decision maker and my decisions are not subject to review by the elected judge, because that is now me.

“My decisions are only subject to review by our higher courts, so I want to get them right.”

Since taking the Akron Municipal Court bench on Jan. 3, Judge Walker said she has focused on reducing the large docket she took over by getting cases handled thoughtfully and more efficiently.

Judge Walker said she is also involved in a project that started before the election in conjunction with the City of Akron Prosecutor’s Office and the Summit County Probate Court.

“We are hoping we can funnel some of the lowest-level misdemeanor cases that involve people suffering from severe mental illness, who are routinely arrested for things like trespassing in public places, to Judge Stormer’s ‘New Day Court’ for mental health treatment,” said Judge Walker.

“These cases don’t qualify for the mental health court run by Judge Annalisa Williams. We are hoping to get people the mental health treatment they need because we are all committed to recovery and community safety,” she said. “This will also free up valuable jail space we need for violent offenders.”

Judge Walker has also expanded her open court hours, where people can request driving privileges or handle other issues related to their court cases, in an effort to make it more convenient for those who have work, transportation or caregiver issues.

The new hours are Mondays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

“My goal is to grow and learn from others in my role as a newly elected Akron Municipal Court judge and continue to find ways to streamline court services and serve our community while making it safe for all of us who call it our home,” said Judge Walker.