OTTAWA — On Saturday, Keith Schierloh was sworn in as Putnam County’s sixteenth Common Pleas Court Judge.
is going to be a terrific judge,” Common Pleas Court Judge Randall
Basinger said by way of introducing the ceremony. “I’ve seen him in
court many times and he is going to be truly an asset to the court here
in Putnam County.”
Then, before a standing-room-only crowd,
retired Municipal Court Judge Michael O’Malley officiated the ceremony
inaugurating the county’s first new judge to serve in that capacity in
nearly 30 years.
“This is an unbelievable experience,” Schierloh
told those assembled following his swearing-in. “When I first started
practicing law, I always held these judges in such great honor, such
respect. It is an extreme honor to have the ability to be here today.
This is a very big responsibility and I know that every individual that
walks through those doors is important. They have all of the rights
outlined in the Constitution and they should be given a fair and
impartial hearing every time they are in here. I pledge and promise to
Elected last November, Schierloh won’t assume the bench
until the second week in May. Those intervening six months have proven a
time not only of reflection, but of active research into the mechanics
and possibilities of his new position.
“Not a lot of judges have
the luxury of (sitting on the bench) four or five months after an
election,” Schierloh said. “I’ve had the opportunity and I’ve gone into
the other courts and sat down.”
As part of
that opportunity, Schierloh has investigated how other county judicial
systems deal with an ever increasing case-load of drug offenses,
particularly those that have implemented drug courts.
served as a defense attorney for nearly two decades and as a member of
the Pathways board, Schierloh is all too familiar with the devastating
effects of drug abuse. With that in mind, he has established the
possibility of a drug court here in Putnam County as one of his
Although still held liable to the letter of the law,
drug courts offer low level felony drug offenders an opportunity at
redemption, the chance to turn their lives around and, when appropriate,
have any felony convictions expunged from their records. Rather than
prison time, offenders have a shot at rehabilitation.
probation,” Schierloh said in describing the process. “It’s more of an
intense probation because you give individuals the tools for what they
want to be able to accomplish.”
While setting the establishment of
a drug court as a priority, Schierloh recognizes the daunting task such
a program engenders. According to Schierloh, it requires the
coordination and cooperation of all aspects of law enforcement and
places a particular strain on county probationary officers. From an
economic standpoint alone — particularly with ever-decreasing financial
input from the State — the road is rife with obstacles.
Schierloh remains optimistic, seeks creative ways to smooth the road.
The possibilities for redemption, he says, are worth the effort.
seen the effects,” Schierloh said. “I’ve seen how drugs can affect not
only individuals, but their families and how that can pull people apart
Schierloh will officially assume the bench on Tuesday, May 9.