Retired Judge Lynne Callahan discusses what’s next
Legal News Reporter
Published: March 17, 2023
She was a police officer, assistant prosecutor, private practitioner and served on the municipal, common pleas and appellate court benches, but on Feb. 10, 9th District Court of Appeals Judge Lynne Callahan retired after dedicating the bulk of her decades-long career to public service.
“It was not an easy decision for me,” said Callahan, 65. “Serving on the bench has been a huge honor and thrill, but in the end I felt it was time.
“Life is too short and there’s still so much I want to do,” said Callahan. “I want to do some volunteer work and I also have four grandsons who I want to spend more time with along with a beautiful rescue dog that I’m trying to get certified as a therapy dog.”
Ninth District Court of Appeals Court Administrator C. Michael Walsh said Callahan would be missed.
“Judge Callahan’s years of experience and varied background made her an outstanding addition to the 9th District Court of Appeals,” said Walsh. “She gave her full energy to make the best decision she could in every case.
“In addition to being an excellent judge, she is a wonderful person,” said Walsh. “She supported all of us at the court of appeals during the hard times and celebrated our accomplishments. All of us who worked with her benefited from her wisdom, work ethic and caring.”
Ninth District Court of Appeals Judge Donna Carr described Callahan as “an incredible judge” and “a wonderful person.”
The two first got to know one another while working at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, later serving on the Akron Municipal Court bench together in 1997 and 1998.
“She’s also been my neighbor for 28 years,” said Judge Carr. “I will really miss her.”
Former Barberton Municipal Court Judge Jill Flagg Lanzinger was elected to the seat in November and began serving on the 9th District Court of Appeals on Feb. 11.
“Judge Callahan is the one who swore me in,” said Judge Lanzinger. “She is irreplaceable. I could never fill her shoes given all her trial experience and her background as a police officer.
“Judge Callahan is a no-nonsense judge with a kind heart,” said Judge Lanzinger. “She will be missed.”
A native of Akron, Callahan received her bachelor’s degree in English and her juris doctorate from The University of Akron.
“I was not initially planning on going to law school,” said Callahan. “But after I graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School I took some summer courses at The University of Akron and the professor pulled me aside and suggested I consider law school because my English scores were so high.
“I didn’t really give it much thought until I was graduating college,” said Callahan. “I had a degree in English and knew I didn’t want to teach so I decided to take the LSAT.
“I went to law school at night, worked during the day and had my two daughters while attending school.”
While at Akron Law, Callahan completed an internship at the Akron city prosecutor’s office and served as a traffic court intern at the Akron Police Department.
“I was very intrigued by law enforcement so I decided to take the police test,” Callahan said. “I was accepted into the police academy and passed the bar exam at the same time, but my heart was just not in practicing law at that time so I entered the police academy.”
Callahan joined the Akron Police Department as a patrol officer in 1984. She worked at the department until 1989, spending the last portion of her career as a detective in the narcotics division.
She then did a short stint in the Akron city prosecutor’s office as an assistant prosecutor in the criminal division.
“I was planning on staying longer, but I got the opportunity to interview at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Callahan. “I got the job and couldn’t turn it down.”
She served as an assistant county prosecutor until December 1994 when she started as an associate at Davis & Young, where she focused on insurance defense.
In 1997, Callahan began what would turn out to be an extensive career on the bench after being appointed to the Akron Municipal Court by former Ohio Gov. George Voinovich.
During her time as a municipal court judge, Callahan started the Family Violence Court.
“It was a specialized docket, but back then the Ohio Supreme Court did not certify the dockets,” said Callahan. “The docket provided first-time significant other offenders with the chance to get the charges dismissed after completing the program, which included a number of requirements, such as intensive violence cessation counseling.”
Callahan was an Akron Municipal Court judge for 11 years.
In 2009 she moved to the Summit County Common Pleas Court after being elected the previous year.
Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Tammy O’Brien said she’s “grateful” for the time they served together on the common pleas bench.
“Judge Callahan has been a mentor to me for almost 20 years,” said Judge O’Brien.
“As common pleas judges, we often deal with frustrating or even tragic situations. We are however also privileged to witness greater acts of courage, integrity and decency.
“Many of those greater acts that I have witnessed have been through Judge Callahan, as she has always approached everyone who comes before her with courtesy and respect,” said Judge O’Brien.
In 2016, Callahan was elected to the 9th District Court of Appeals.
She took the bench in February 2017. Her term ended on Feb. 10, 2023.
“I’m at peace with the way things worked out,” Callahan said. “I served as a judge on all three levels and had the opportunity to sit on the Ohio Supreme Court. Each court had its blessings and challenges.
“The municipal court is truly the court of the people and I enjoyed the fast pace and the interaction with the citizens and the attorneys,” said Callahan. “The common pleas court was more stressful and challenging, but extraordinarily rewarding.
“My time at the appellate court was totally different,” she said. “I was no longer around people that much but I had a lot of time to do research and dig into legal theories.
“I believe my experiences as a police officer and what I learned from the streets about people and their struggles definitely made me a better judge.”
A longtime member of the Akron and Ohio state bar associations, Callahan said she’s now looking to focus on volunteer endeavors.
“I used to be involved in so many different nonprofit boards, but I’m winding everything down,” said Callahan. “I coached mock trial at St. Hilary grade school and St. Vincent-St. Mary High School for a total of ten years.
“I was on the mock trial and moot court teams in law school and it made such a difference in my life, not just in terms of legal, but also life skills,” said Callahan. “That’s why I wanted to coach. Mock trial can instill confidence and teach other valuable skill sets. I wanted to pass that on to my mock trial students.”
The mother of three adult children and four grandchildren is now a regular volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House in Akron and continues to tutor students at St. Mary School.
In addition, she volunteers for the hot lunch program at her grandson’s school.
“My work at the Ronald McDonald House involves keeping the house running,” Callahan said. “That means I do everything from restocking the pantry to taking out the trash. I recently helped with kitchen construction.”
Callahan has agreed to sit as a visiting judge at Akron Municipal Court at the end of July.
“I have gotten other calls to serve,” she said. “I am not allowed to do so until mid-May so we’ll see how things go.
“In addition to volunteer opportunities, I want to spend more time with my family and travel if I can.”
Looking back on her career, Callahan said she believes each step was meant to be.
“I loved my work as a police officer and never in my wildest dreams thought I would be a judge,” Callahan said. “I met my husband Mike while working at the county prosecutor’s office and had my son while at Davis & Young.
“My life and work experiences prepared me to take the bench and I’m grateful for it all.
“I’ve truly been blessed,” she said.